Friday, October 16, 2009

The critical and evolving role of primary care

PROMOTING PRIMARY CARE: From left, Andrew Singer, MD, an HMS resident and president of the Harvard Primary Care Working Group; Berwick; Lee; Burstin; and Leigh Simmons, MD, of the Stoeckle CenterThe critical and evolving role of primary care In the current health care reform debate, many argue that a focus on primary care is the key to improving health care quality and access despite a growing shortage of primary care physicians.

On Sept. 24, the John D. Stoeckle Center for Primary Care Innovation, the Harvard Primary Care Working Group and the Primary Care Division at Harvard Medical School (HMS) hosted a panel discussion, "Primary Care: The Foundation for Health Care Reform," as part of the 2009 Cabot Primary Care Lecture Series.

The panel featured three leaders in primary care and health care policy: Don Berwick, MD, president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement; Helen Burstin, MD, MPH, senior vice president for performance measures at the National Quality Forum in Washington, D.C.; and Thomas Lee, MD, network president and CEO of Partners Community HealthCare, Inc.

William Kormos, MD, director of Education at the Stoeckle Center, welcomed the nearly 200 students, residents and faculty who attended the timely lecture and introduced the panelists.

Each panelist discussed their views on the role of primary care through their personal experiences working in the field.

Lee discussed the strategic importance of entering primary care, noting that as the center of the care team, a primary care physician is in a position to show leadership and best understand medical situations.

Burstin emphasized that the nature of primary care is rewarding to both the patient and physician due to the ability to build a trusting relationship with one another. "It's such a gift to be a part of a patient’s life," she said.

Berwick focused on the necessity of reform in primary care, as well as its importance. "Without a platform of coordination of care, you can't get quality care," he said.

After the individual remarks, students and faculty asked the panelists questions. In addi-tion to offering their opinions, all agreed that primary care in the United States is at a critical crossroad.

The Cabot lecture was held at a crucial time, as HMS recently suspended funding of its Division of Primary Care, which included the Cabot lecture series as well as a mentoring program.

The next lecture, "Community Health Centers: America's Health Care Home,"with David Stevens, MD, director of the Quality Center at the National Association of Community Health Centers, will be held Oct. 20 at 6:30 pm in the Minot Room at Countway Library at HMS.

Find more information about the Stoeckle Center lectures

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