ACP Helps Drive Conversations on the Value of Primary Care

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During Primary Care 23, ACP representatives explored innovations for primary care in Medicare and strengthening the primary care workforce

June 2, 2023 (ACP) — Innovative solutions are needed to address the primary care physician shortage and underscore the value of primary care for patients, communities and the health care system as a whole.

To that end, the American College of Physicians participated in the Primary Care 23 Conference, the second annual invitation-only event sponsored by Primary Care for America and held on May 18 and 19 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Primary Care for America is a collaboration of partners focused on educating policymakers and health policy influencers about the value of “comprehensive, continuous and coordinated primary care.” The founding partners include the American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of Community Health Centers, among others. During Primary Care 23, national thought leaders in attendance discussed the future of primary care and bridging the gap between the present and future.

“We had a seat at the table for the second year in a row and are working with fellow primary care societies and other organizations to try and address access to primary care and to ensure opportunities for primary care physicians to engage in value-based care,” said Shari Erickson, ACP chief advocacy officer and senior vice president. She moderated a panel discussion during Primary Care 23 on innovations within Medicare for primary care, including transformation services for accountable care organizations (ACOs).

ACOs represent groups of doctors, hospitals and other health care clinicians that work together to provide high-quality care to Medicare patients. Within Medicare, ACOs fall under the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) and the ACO Realizing Equity, Access, and Community Health (REACH) programs. “The health care organizations participating in MSSP or ACO REACH may receive value-based payments for providing high-quality care and/or reducing costs, but there isn't great transparency around how much of that funding actually reaches the frontline physician who is providing that care,” she said.

Telemedicine was another hot topic at the two-day conference. This form of care delivery came into its own during the COVID-19 pandemic, but now that the Public Health Emergency declaration has officially ended, many of the flexibilities that allowed doctors to see new and existing patients via video or phone are being phased out. “There is agreement about the need for telemedicine to continue and the importance of including patients and health care professionals in rural areas who may not have access to broadband, which points to the importance of continuing coverage of audio-only visits,” Erickson said.

Dr. Darilyn V. Moyer, ACP executive vice president and chief executive officer, spoke to attendees during Primary Care 23 about bolstering the primary care workforce.

She said more must be done to make primary care an attractive career path by ensuring payments reflect the value of care that is provided and removing unnecessary administrative burdens, such as excessive requirements for prior authorizations and step therapy.

Other ways to ensure supply meets the demand for primary care physicians include increased funding and slots allocated for federal workforce programs, such as the National Health Service Corps, Title 7 Primary Care Training and Enhancement grants and Medicare-supported Graduate Medical Education positions, Moyer said.

Other topics discussed at the meeting included bridging primary care from the present to the future, the role that primary care plays in facilitating access to care and transforming health care delivery with innovation. Erickson noted that all videos and materials from the conference will be available online in the near future.

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