Physician Organization Releases Comprehensive Strategy to Reform Primary Care Systems

American College of Physicians Will Work to Reverse Collapse in Primary Care

PHILADELPHIA-- (April 6, 2006) A comprehensive strategy to redesign how primary care is taught, delivered and financed was released today in a set of three policy papers by the American College of Physicians (ACP) at its Annual Session in Philadelphia. The strategy is part of an effort to prevent the collapse of primary care in the U.S., and to allow physicians to provide care that is centered on the needs of patients.

"The ACP calls for a national workforce policy for internal medicine, critical changes in undergraduate and graduate medical education and training, and reforms in physician payment and delivery systems to reverse the downward trend in primary care. These reforms will help recognize and reward primary care physicians for the value and quality of services they provide," said C. Anderson Hedberg, MD, FACP, ACP president.

National Health Care Workforce Policy

"Creating a New National Workforce for Internal Medicine," one of the ACP policy papers, calls for a national health care workforce policy to reverse the impending collapse of primary care. The paper states that the future supply of primary care physicians, particularly those practicing office-based internal medicine, will be inadequate to meet the health care needs of the aging U.S. population. This is particularly alarming, ACP maintains, because baby boomers are beginning to reach the age when they will be at increased risk for needing healthcare services. Without a strong primary care system, ACP believes the consequences will be higher costs and lower quality of patient care.

Redesigning Internal Medicine Training

"Redesigning Training for Internal Medicine[PDF]," another ACP policy paper that was published online today in Annals of Internal Medicine, calls for critical changes in undergraduate medical education and internal medicine training. ACP recommends a system of educating medical students and internal medicine residents to more effectively meet the needs of patients and of 21st century medicine within the context of a rapidly evolving system of health care delivery.

Reforming the Dysfunctional Payment System

Inadequate and dysfunctional payment and delivery policies are key drivers behind the impending collapse of primary care. "Reform of the Dysfunctional Healthcare Payment and Delivery System[PDF]," ACP's third policy paper, says the current payment system limits innovation and does not support the value of skills and quality of services that internists and primary care physicians provide. Many internists cannot maintain an office environment to provide the quality care they want to provide and that their patients need, ACP says.

Advanced Medical Home

The three papers released today by ACP build on an earlier policy the organization released earlier this year calling for a new model of patient care, the advanced medical home. That model is based on the premise that the best quality of care is provided through patient-centered, physician-guided, cost-efficient, longitudinal care, designed to strengthen and support the patient-physician relationship. Under the model, patients would have a personal physician -- most likely a primary care physician or a specialist/subspecialist for patients requiring ongoing care for certain conditions -- working with a team of health care professionals in a practice that is organized according to the needs of the patient.

Primary care physicians, and general internists in particular, are a key component of managing chronic diseases, providing comprehensive and coordinated long-term care. ACP's recommended reforms will help strengthen the importance of primary care in the health care system, by acknowledging and supporting the value and role of primary care physicians in delivering better quality care at lower cost.

ACP (Doctors of Internal Medicine. Doctors for Adults.®) is the largest medical-specialty organization and second-largest physician group in the United States. Membership includes physicians who provide comprehensive primary and subspecialty care to tens of millions of patients, including taking care of more Medicare patients than any other physician specialty. Internists specialize in the prevention, detection and treatment of illnesses in adults. ACP works to enhance the quality and effectiveness of health care by fostering excellence and professionalism in the practice of medicine.

Susan Anderson at 215-351-2653 or 1-800-523-1546, ext. 2653;