What we can do to help primary care: Comments from Christine Cassel, MD MACP

Chris Cassel MD ABIMChris Cassel MD ABIM

Christine Cassel, MD, MACP (click to enlarge)

This post is part 2 of my experience recently in Englewood, Colorado, at Kaiser Permanente’s first gathering of its primary care leadership across the nation.

On day two of our discussion, we changed our focus to the specific work being done within the Kaiser Permanente system to support primary care, to the external environment and ways we could support it.

As part of that conversation, Christine Cassel, MD, MACP, President of the American Board of Internal Medicine, came to talk to us about her experience and offer guidance. I was fortunate to meet both Christine and Richard Baron, MD, who presided over a dedicated forum on patient-centered care in California earlier this year. Organizations like the ABIM are spending the time to find the best opportunities to improve the patient experience and support them. Both Christine and Richard wrote a commentary recently in JAMA entitled: 21st-Century Primary Care: New Physician Roles Need New Payment Models

I wrote down three main messages from Christine’s talk to us (my paraphrase), which were:

  1. Make this (primary care) a satisfying profession
  2. Make the workload manageable
  3. Create a team culture of mutual respect (with specialty care colleagues)

I really identified with the last point because I think Permanente Medical groups are among several (see: The Council of Accountable Physician Practices) that can contribute to knowledge around successful partnerships between primary care and specialty care physicians. I’ve seen and participated in these partnerships in past work – and I know there are many opportunities, perhaps more than is conventionally believed, to work together.

Following Christine’s comments, there was a review of multiple other innovative practices throughout the Kaiser Permanente system that touched on the 3 points above. It’s important to remember that these are practices that have fully functioning electronic health records and personal health records, coast to coast (and Hawaii). The innovations I saw are ones that extend this functionality to change the way medicine is practiced. I am hopeful that these practices can be shared (and critiqued) widely, as possible solutions for primary care everywhere.

Ted Eytan, MD