Tuesday, July 29, 2014

GME Funding: A New Recommendation and Discussion

Today, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) presented a recommendation report on the future of GME funding to meet the health care needs of the population.  

In this report, the IOM experts suggested a 35% drop in the amount of current payments to teaching hospitals for GME.  Among other things, five principles for reform were described: accountability, meeting the needs of the public, innovation, stability in the funding, and aligning education and clinical care.  They also discussed the creation of a GME Policy Council within HHS to help develop a strategic plan for a physician workforce, and phasing out direct and indirect medical education in favor of a global operational fund.

Other constituencies quickly provided comments voicing their concern over the IOM’s specific recommendations.  The AAMC’s comments were titled “IOM’s Vision of GME Will Not Meet Real-World Patient Needs”, and stated: “ …the IOM’s proposal to radically overhaul GME and make major cuts to patient care would threaten the world’s best training programs for health professionals and jeopardize patients, particularly those who are the most medical vulnerable.”  

In addition, the American Hospital Association noted: “Today’s report on GME is the wrong prescription for training tomorrow’s physicians.  We are especially disappointed that the report proposes phasing out the current Medicare GME funding provided to hospitals and offering it to other entities that do not treat Medicare patients.”  

So what do I think?  This is a very complex issue, first of all.  I do believe that GME funding needs to change because, fundamentally, we (the health care system and the training of future physicians within that system) need to meet the future health care needs of the population.  I believe that we do need more physicians, not fewer.  While reform is likely important, it is costly to educate residents.  Just look at colleges, and how much it costs to educate undergraduate students.  The same is true for residents.

So where do we go from here?  I am not sure, but as a residency educator, I hope that today’s recommendations do not jeopardize the fine training program that I have the privilege of overseeing and other outstanding educators across the country also oversee.  I hope that educators who do the day-to-day work to train the physicians of tomorrow are listened to.  I hope that residents who are currently in the training programs can have their voices heard too.  Let’s advocate for GME to continue to train competent residents who will leave and be ready for independent practice, and for funding that can accomplish that.  After all, THAT is why we are here, to provide much needed health care to the patients.  In all of the discussions and counterarguments, that needs to be the essential core.  As Francis Peabody stated in JAMA in 1927: “The secret in caring for the patient is to care for the patient.” 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

GME Funding

A recent post from the NY Times discusses the issue of the physician workforce of the future.  I believe it accurately describes some of the concerns about GME training.  Yes, GME training is indeed the bottleneck by which new physicians come into the workforce.  Yes, we need new physicians (and other health care professionals) to care for an aging population.  We especially need primary care physicians for this, but we also need general surgeons, many types of subspecialists, and we need physicians to go into underserved areas, particularly rural areas.

There are bills that, if passed, could help fund more GME slots.  Dr. Atul Grover from the AAMCdescribes them well here in this post.  Residency programs accredited by the ACGME take new graduates from medical school, and appropriately train them to go out and practice medicine independently.  I also personally disagree with a proposal from Missouri that advocates for "assistantphysicians".  Simply put, these graduates need adequate training (a minimum of 3-4 years for most residency programs, with some like neurosurgery taking as long as 7-8 years), and that is what GME provides.

Please advocate for future GME funding: it is the best way to begin to create a physician workforce that will help care for our society.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Scholarship, Emerging Technology and Medical Education

Those who know me know my interest in emerging technology in medicine and medical education continues to flourish.  I am always looking for ways that technology can help drive medical education.  Specifically, social media has the capability of disseminating information to a much greater number of learners than in the past via traditional formats.  One such example is this great video by the AAMC on using wearable technologies in medical education, featuring Dr. Warren Wiechmann.

In discussing this within my academic environment, conversations almost always come back to scholarship, specifically, publishing in peer-reviewed journals.  Articles on the use of social media in medicine are sparse, but are beginning to crop up in mainstream medical journals.  Leaders such as Dr. Terry Kind are really demonstrating the impact via a scholarly approach.

It is with excitement that I read some recent articles (this and this) by some innovators in emergency medicine that can get physicians started using online resources and thinking about peer review with respect to blogs.  Simply put, these articles are phenomenal!  It is exciting to see that journal editors are beginning to see the impact of technology and social media for their readers.  

With this blog, I am excited to announce a new opportunity for me: as social media editor for the Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions (@JCEHP).  I thank JCEHP's senior editor, Curt Olson, for his vision to allow me to become involved in growing the journal's reach by utilizing social media, specifically twitter.  In the coming year, we will work on creating and disseminating information via a blog for readers to provide comments on articles of interest, and will push content out to those interested via online social networks.

There are great ways of using social media for the betterment of medicine and medical education.  One such way we have been utilizing at the Indiana University School of Medicine is to tweet our Pediatrics Grand Rounds (follow on Wednesday mornings, 8 am EST, at #iupedsgrrounds), which we've been doing for several years now.  But how do we show (in a peer-reviewed journal) the impact of this activity?  Many specialties have written about tweeting national conferences (including Oncology, Surgery, Nephrology and Urology, to name a few).  

So how can we demonstrate this impact in the JCEHP journal?  By including a presence within social media, we hope to start a conversation on how social media can provide an impact within medical education.  It's a start, but we have to start somewhere.  I'm excited to be a small part of this journey, both at my institution and at JCEHP.