Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Thoughts from the 2011 Family Medicine Congressional Conference

Ok, I'll start out with a cheat sheet on the important issues and "asks" that we brought to Capitol Hill today. There was a definite sense of urgency to act, and our proposals focused on opportunities to incentivize primary care, without significant budgetary increases.

1) Fix the SGR. Stop kicking the can down the road and get realistic payment stability.
2) In regards to GME, consider a model that would secure a portion of funds specifically to primary care community and out-patient residency facilities.
3) Encourage investment in Title VII funding (specifically section 747) and further support for National Health Service Corps
4) Decrease the gap that exists between primary care and specialty salaries

Now for some reflections on the issues and discussions for family medicine here in Washington, D.C. at the FMCC:

7:00am: Wow, breakfast buffet is great! The AAFP really takes care of their own. Next, I walk into a room of over 200 family doctors convened and eager to descend on Capitol hill tomorrow and breakfast becomes an afterthought. Talk about wow - I'm speechless. I wish every medical student could be here for this program and for the good of the future of medicine.

Hot issues:

Monday, 8am: Models, models, model. You'd think with all the talk of models, their would be a Paris runway close by. Then again, I wouldn't complain if some Hawaiian tropic spokespeople walked through the doors right now.

In all seriousness, there is so much talk of models and systems. I can see that this sort of dialogue is important, as a means of establishing a strong foundation. The reality is that a 400+ pg proposal has been put forward, and we are still in the comment period prior to the final product. But the frustrating aspect is that family physicians function at the ground floor of health care delivery. Its tough to listen to mostly generalized and broad goals, when we all know how important the details really are. I do very much look forward to the proverbial "meat" at the heart of these proposed systems. I am eager to move forward and to see how these models function and to see them in place.

10am: AMA question and answer forum. This session quickly turned into a soundboard for comments. This tells me that family docs know the facts, and are more prepared to have their voice heard than the need to have questions answered. The people in this room have done their homework, and family doctors are hungry for parity and a successful balance in medicine. I'm encouraged by all of this discussion.

11am: Robert Phillips, MD, Director Robert Graham Center. This man is a visionary and his poise is inspirational. He first offers the difference between "Reducing costs vs restraining costs". This a perspective that isn't often considered. Everyone is looking for ways to lower cost, when in fact we should be looking for opportunity to curb spending growth.

Workplace continues to be framed in terms of supply and demand. Figures are often thrown around at the national level that "this many tens of thousands" of physician workforce shortage. The paradigm shift on this is to consider the implications of physician distribution. In fact, when you look at physician demographics, it is apparent that the number of physicians serving in areas of excess could cover the areas that demonstrate a shortage.

That said, it seems that the focus has shifted away from workforce and on to economic impact. That is fantastic news for the primary care front - their is amazing data on the number of local jobs, the economic impact, and cost effectiveness of family physicians. Most importantly, it has been shown that an increase in family physicians in a community led to a correlative decrease in readmissions. Every other specialty showed increases in readmissions with increased workforce in community.

Thought: data, data, charts, graphs and data. Proof and facts are the name of the game in directing change.

One thing that really sticks out to me is the continual rhetoric and future tense employed by many speakers. It seems that words such as "planning", "committee" "considering" "taking suggestions" "reviewing proposals" far outweigh any directions or indication of activity. Right now its a waiting and planning, and few seem to want to take the first step. Which is counter intuitive to the needs of medicine. We have an outmoded system that is functioning on an outdated payment schedule. In order to meet the demands of the modern health care climate, we need to stop the rhetoric and start the reaction. It was clear from the medical student voice, that we demand as quick resolve to act as any group.

2pm: Panel on health reform movement. After spending the better part of the past year and a half focused on health reform, it seems that their is a general health care fatigue on Capitol Hill. On top of this, the magnitude of the funding deficit makes any movement in the positive direction extremely challenging.

Two of the COGME recommendations that struck me: to adequately meet the needs of American health care, it is recommended that the physician workforce be composed of at least 40 percent primary care. The second recommendation was to encourage enhancement in medical school social accountability in training. See my most recent post on this site for some of my thoughts that are right in line with this.

Some other random thoughts:
1). Check out Wellmed a non-hospital aco based in san antonio that is producing outlier numbers in reduced mortality, cost saving, and family physician salaries. (http://www.wellmedmedicalgroup.com/)
2). Its inspiring to meet and see all of the energetic and engaged medical students here. Debt is a huge issue, but these passionate students are willing to sacrifice for the goals of primary care. More apparent is the medical student urge for activity. We are saying, we can't wait, we can't put things off - we need to act now.

1 comment:

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