Are We on the Verge of a Primary Care Renaissance?

May 16, 2012
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 Written by Madelyn Young, Associate Content Writer at CareCloud.

Twitter’s power as an information-sharing tool has made it today’s strongest measuring stick for emerging trends. If you visit the microblogging site soon, do a quick search for#FMRevolution.

 Written by Madelyn Young, Associate Content Writer at CareCloud.

Twitter’s power as an information-sharing tool has made it today’s strongest measuring stick for emerging trends. If you visit the microblogging site soon, do a quick search for#FMRevolution.

The people sharing this hashtag are advocating on behalf of a burgeoning movement: The Family Medicine Revolution.

The campaign was spawned by a group of medical residents focused on raising awareness of the importance of family medicine and primary care. They launched the effort by printing and distributing tee-shirts bearing sayings like “Use all parts of your brain; be a family physician” and “Americans are dying to have a family doc.”

Jay W. Lee, MD, MPH, of the California Academy of Family Physicians, launched the #FMRevolution on Twitter with the mission of formalizing the growing support for family physicians and primary care providers.

By backing and growing this crusade, the thought leaders, industry experts and clinicians across the country coming together through the #FMRevolution hashtag are working to disrupt a status quo that devalues the significance of this domain of medicine.

Is their online rallying cry a signal that primary care, long underpaid by the insurance system and devalued by the skyrocketing costs of specialty procedures, is on the verge of a resurgence?

The Shifting Tides of Health Care

Despite the multitude of media reports signaling its decline by claiming that young doctors are shunning primary care in favor of hospital employment, the National Resident Matching Program reports that family medicine residency is on the upswing. For three straight years, more U.S. medical school seniors have matched to primary care than in the preceding year, notably rising 11% from 2010 to 2011.

And in spite of much of the resistance to healthcare reform, the healthcare industry is beginning to adapt to the changes set forth by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Primary care-focused medicine is still undeniably stunted by the U.S. healthcare system’s continued reliance on the fee for service model, which encourages providers to conduct high-cost procedures rather than take preventive measures.

But the new Accountable Care Organization (ACO) and Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) models, which are gaining traction and increased adoption across the U.S., are designed to foster prevention and wellness, rather than reward physicians for performing surgeries and other high-code encounters (as the traditional reimbursement model does).

The expanding presence of ACOs and PCMHs in the medical marketplace is a step in the right direction and indicator of the primary care resurgence that may well be upon us. Dr. Lee writes that, as a result of these care models, the “vector of our health care delivery system has begun to shift away from fragmented, volume-based to integrated, value-based care,” says Dr. Lee.

Additionally, advanced technology is, in part, helping an enhanced focus on primary care and prevention to proliferate. The advent of mobile health is working to enhance health literacy through patient education; putting a doctor in a patient’s pocket through a health awareness app is one way to encourage positive outcomes.

And the growth of telemedicine is providing patients, especially those in underserved rural communities, increased access to family medicine practitioners.

A Necessary Change for the Better

Forbes writer Dave Chase has been championing the arrival of a “Primary Care Renaissance,” saying that “the only way to improve the health of the population and reduce healthcare costs is to build on a primary care foundation.”

Chase’s argument is hard to refute, as studies from IBM have shown that the nations with the healthiest citizens and lowest healthcare costs are those that deliver the most primary care to their populations.

Despite primary care’s current progress, though, the challenges of the fee-for-service model have not disappeared. The “do more, bill more” approach to healthcare remains more common than the ACO, PCMH or any value-focused concierge medicine approach to practicing.

But Dr. Lee, Dave Chase and the hordes of #FMRevolution Twitterers are on to something. Aperceptible shift in healthcare is, at the very least, beginning, and it could grow to change the overall system in a major way.

In an address at the California Academy of Family Physicians’ Congress of Delegates, Dr. Roland Goertz, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, told his primary care colleagues that “Our time is now.”

Will the rest of the decision-makers in healthcare agree that the time for a Family Medicine Revolution has arrived? For the sake of patients everywhere, let’s hope so.

    

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