Almost half of primary care physicians surveyed indicated they would retire immediately if they had the financial means to do so, according to a report released in November 2008 by The Physicians' Foundation. Trends for the last several years show a decline in the number of medical students selecting primary care over other clinical specialties.
Diagnostic and therapeutic challenges faced by primary care physicians continue to increase, while the escalating requirements and expectations of insurance companies leave them (and their patients) exasperated. The end result is that primary care physicians are left to figure out how to do it all.
As CME providers, how can we continue to help primary care physicians overcome the barriers of improving their clinical practice? The answer may be closer than we think: Use CME to complete the educational cycle and provide clinicians with tools and strategies to implement what we've taught them.
In a recent CME activity, clinicians were educated about new diabetes therapies coupled with how to communicate with the allied health care professionals in their offices. This single educational intervention resulted in an often elusive outcome: improved patient care. How was this accomplished? By giving physicians a simple plan of action to implement what was taught. Of equal importance, the activity raised awareness of potential barriers that should be avoided in the physicians' clinical practices.
If we develop CME activities that address the administrative realities of modern clinical practice, the results can be profound. Here are ideas to consider:
Provide education that addresses the administrative components of primary care physicians' daily duties. Consider including coding specialists as part of panel discussions withduring CME symposia.
Include resource materials identifying the ICD-9 (Internal Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision) and CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) coding relevant to the content of your CME activities.
Does the CME activity propose practice changes that involve legal aspects? Proactively address these concerns directly in the activity or with supplemental materials.
Merge the theoretical with the practical. Use CME to establish treatment algorithms that help primary care physicians incorporate the latest evidence-based guidelines by providing optimal billing and reimbursement strategies.
Use CME activities to help make the connection between medical/scientific content, e.g., disease-free progression and survival data and the economic impact of reduced hospitalization transparent to payors.
Efforts such as these can arm clinicians with strategies to greatly enhance their job satisfaction and improve the level of care their patients receive.
Ann C. Lichti, CCMEP, is the vice president of Health Care Education Strategy for Veritas Institute for Medical Ed s worked in the healthcare industry (both CME/CE and clinical research) for six years. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harold I. Magazine, PhD, is the president of Veritas Institute for Medical Education Inc. He has 18 years of combined experience in academic research, publications, and medical education. Reach him at email@example.com.
The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not constitute the views of Veritas Institute for Medical Education Inc.
CME's Role in Addressing the Nation's Health-Care Crises