Focus on improving care
To the Editor : …The aspect of care that most of us found and continue to find rewarding—diagnosing difficult disease processes, adjusting medical treatment plans, discussing acute, chronic, and preventive care with patients and their families, and the bonding with patients and support staff—will be done in the outpatient arena. In order to make this aspect of health care more rewarding and to attract the best and brightest from the ranks of our medical schools, we need to focus on the processes that need to improve. We need to develop a team of caregivers working with the physician, just as we had in the hospital setting 20 years ago—nurses who had time to talk with patients and participate hands-on in their care. Therapists, nutritionists, and social care workers can add so much to the level of care a patients receives, and coordinating this care with the medical care given by the physician is rewarding to all involved.
Finally, we need to be fairly rewarded financially for this activity. Third-party payers, employers, and government agencies need to recognize the value in this coordination of care, the value in focusing on disease management and preventive care, and change the way we are reimbursed from the present system that only pays us for an office visit. If the average adult primary care physician had a better sense of accomplishment, could spend time on complex patients, and could be fairly compensated for this, we would have more than 2% of medical students going into medicine.
I have seen the rise and fall of satisfaction and enjoyment among internists, who can be a dour and whining group at times (I am one of them, remember). But I have also seen new physicians joining our group with enthusiasm and a realistic view of the profession they have chosen. We are focused on improving chronic care through disease management and of promoting those preventive care measures that will make a difference in the health of our patients. We are anxious to improve the system that supports these activities and controls the reimbursement for the work done to care for this growing population of our community. Finally, we want to see an improvement in the coordination of inpatient and outpatient care by the various specialists in medicine, which has always been a rewarding part of this field— colleagues working together to find the best solution for an ailing patient.