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Thursday, June 25, 2009

"You're likely to hear a lot more about this idea"

Proponents of the patient-centered medical home gained a high-profile advocate this week – New York Times health columnist Jane Brody. Highlighting care provided by family physician Gloria Trujillo, MD, at Duke University Family Medicine Center, Brody's Monday column, "A Personal, Coordinated Approach to Care," highlights the medical home's potential to heal the U.S. health care system, both for patients and physicians: "As President Obama and Congress try to create a national system that provides better care for more people at lower cost, you are likely to hear a lot more about this idea."

Friday, June 12, 2009

Solving the cost conundrum: Lessons from Grand Junction

An article in the June 1st New Yorker by physician and medical journalist Atul Gawande, MD, should be required reading for physicians concerned about the economics of medical practice. And what family physician isn’t? “The Cost Conundrum” presents the results of an investigation that began with the Dartmouth Atlas and led Gawande to one of the highest-cost health care communities in the U.S. – McAllen, Texas – and to one of the lowest – Grand Junction, Colo. – in search of an explanation for the three-fold difference in Medicare spending between these two cities. In exploring several hypotheses, Gawande contrasts the medical cultures in these communities and arrives at a conclusion sure to make many a physician squirm: The source of the difference in health care spending is “overuse of medicine” by hospitals and physicians alike. “Physicians in places like McAllen behave differently from others. The $2.4-trillion question is why. Unless we figure it out, health reform will fail,” Gawande writes.

The article captured the interest of President Obama, who cited the article in a meeting with two dozen Democratic senators earlier this week and said in effect, "This is what we've got to fix," according to one senator quoted in the New York Times.

Gawande suggests that cities like McAllen would be better served by “accountable-care organizations” like Grand Junction’s, “in which doctors collaborate to increase prevention and the quality of care, while discouraging overtreatment, undertreatment, and sheer profiteering.”

Roger Shenkel, MD, a physician leader in Grand Junction, Colo., was a member of the FPM Board of Editors for more than 10 years. During this time he wrote or co-authored a number of articles that reveal some of the health care strategies and tactics that underlie his community’s success. Dr. Shenkel also introduced us to his Grand Junction colleague Phil Mohler, MD, who wrote or co-authored several FPM articles that share the same themes of cost-effectiveness, quality and collaboration between physicians, medical groups, administrators and payers. We think you’ll find the articles as timely and useful now as when we first published them:

Monday, June 1, 2009

Barbara Starfield on Family Medicine and the PCMH

The work of Barbara Starfield, MD, MPH, has been enormously effective in establishing the value of primary care in general and family medicine in particular. One testimony to this is the AAFP’s list of 100 articles demonstrating the value of family medicine; she wrote or coauthored 18 of the 100 articles.

Given her strong support of primary care, it’s reasonable to want to know her thoughts on the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH), a concept that seems likely to shape the future of the specialty. In an opinion piece written for the July/August issue of Family Practice Management, she sounds somewhat dubious of the direction the PCMH is taking: “Proposals for the PCMH are not very patient-centered. They are justified on the basis of evidence regarding the benefits of primary care, but the criteria for assessment of PCMHs, such as those promulgated by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, concern organizational features such as electronic health records, computerized guidelines and amorphous 'teams,' none of which have been demonstrated to be pursuant to good primary care.”

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The views expressed here are those of the individual authors. They do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Family Practice Management (FPM) or the AAFP. The FPM blogs are not intended to provide medical, financial or legal advice. For more information see Terms of Use.