ACP: Residency Match Results Point To Need For Improved Access To Care, With More Primary Care Physicians -
Patient-Centered Health Care and Revised Training Part of Solution
PHILADELPHIA -- (March 20, 2008) Results of the 2008 National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) show that the number of medical students choosing internal medicine residencies decreased by 20 compared to 2007 (2,680 vs. 2,660). The American College of Physicians (ACP) says that recent trends in physician supply emphasize the need for a national workforce policy that ensures an adequate supply of physicians trained to manage care for the whole patient.
“If this trend continues, a shortage of general internists and other primary care physicians will likely develop more rapidly than many now anticipate. Since the education and training of new physicians takes a number of years, this problem must be addressed now to assure access to care and to prevent a crisis in the future,” says Steven E. Weinberger, MD, FACP, ACP senior vice president for medical education and publishing.
There has been a steady decline of medical students and residents pursuing careers in primary care specialties and many areas of the country are already facing shortages. ACP is concerned that if current trends continue, there will not be an adequate supply of well-trained primary care physicians to treat an aging population—especially those 65 and older--many of whom will have multiple chronic illnesses. This will result in lower-quality care, diminished access to care, higher costs, and decreased patient satisfaction.
ACP’s recent position paper -- "Achieving a High Performance Health Care System with Universal Access: What the USA Can Learn from Other Countries" -- made eight recommendations to improve health care in the United States, among them establishing a workforce policy that will avert a collapse of primary care.
ACP-proposed reforms call for a patient-centered medical home model of care that builds upon the relationship between patients and their primary and principal care physicians. This model of health care delivery has been proven to result in better quality, more efficient use of resources, reduced utilization, and higher patient satisfaction. ACP also calls for a redesign of training in internal medicine to ensure that tomorrow’s internists meet the challenges of both an expanding body of medical knowledge and a rapidly evolving system of health care delivery.
ACP also urges improving the payment and practice environment of existing primary care physicians and advocates for reforming Medicare payment policies so that primary care physicians can receive reimbursement that is commensurate with the value of their contributions. Reducing existing payment disparities would make the field more attractive and increase the number of physicians entering and continuing practice in primary care specialties.
As the single largest group of physicians, internists represent the backbone of the health care system. They not only diagnose and treat diseases of adults but also coordinate health care and play a critical role in preventing disease and promoting health and well-being. Internists practice in a variety of settings, ranging from outpatient offices and clinics to inpatient acute care hospitals to long-term care facilities. Their expertise and scopes of practice extend from a broad base of internal medicine (encompassing all organ systems) to highly specialized clinical areas. In addition to direct patient care, internists are also involved in many other types and combinations of activities, including teaching, research, administration, and health care policy.
The American College of Physicians (www.acponline.org) is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include 125,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students.
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