National Internal Medicine Day recognizes clinicians ‘committed to excellence’
National Internal Medicine Day, October 28, was officially established by the ACP this year “to recognize internal medicine specialists and subspecialists who are united by a commitment to excellence and who make a difference in the lives of their patients every day,” ACP President Robert M. McLean, MD, MACP, told Healio Primary Care.
Many are drawn to careers in internal medicine because of strong patient-physician relationships and the challenge of treating complex conditions, McLean explained.
Although the number of internal medicine residents has remained relatively fixed in recent years, more residents entering specialty fields has contributed to the current decline of practicing PCPs. One estimate showed that there could be a shortage of 31,100 PCPs by 2025.
Emphasizing the importance of the field by celebrating National Internal Medicine Day and through additional efforts can help to make the field more appealing to residents, McLean explained. For instance, an ACP effort to push against use of the term “provider,” will help to prevent further commoditization of health care and strengthen the patient-physician relationships critical to delivering care.
McLean explained that one major issue in the internal medicine community that may deter residents from becoming PCPs is managing administrative burdens that come with electronic health records, as they typically are not “as user friendly as one might hope.”
To help make EHRs more friendly, McLean said those developing the systems should consider input from practicing physicians.
Rules and regulations around commercial and government payers have added to this administrative burden, and “trying to help our patients get the care they need when they have different insurances is a huge stress and burden,” McLean said.
To address this issue, HHS and CMS announced the CMS Primary Cares Initiative, which includes two models to help streamline payments to primary care practices. In addition, some changes anticipated with the CMS Final Rules for 2020 would significantly increase payment for cognitive-level services and decrease documentation requirements, McLean explained.
However, even if commercial payers follow suit and establish similar payment models and coding/documentation changes, a lack of standardization would still create administrative burdens. Therefore, “regulations or laws that try to align how different insurers have to follow the same rules, or establish the same policies, would go a long way” toward reducing the burden on physicians, according to McLean.
“Internal medicine is a wonderful, gratifying career, and despite its challenges, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing,” he said. – by Erin Michael
Disclosure: McLean receives a stipend as president of ACP.