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Cooperation in Medicine

I enjoy attending trade shows. It gives marketers a chance to talk to key customers away from the distractions of their office. Customers are motivated and are usually thought leaders. Many of the players (companies) in a given industry attend so it provides a relatively easy way to see what others are saying in your industry and, maybe more importantly, how they are saying it.

I am currently at the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) annual meeting in Chicago. There a number of hot topics here. Many sessions discuss the role of the family physician as the coordinator of care. The discussion is as medicine becomes more specialized and a patient sees a growing number of specialists for various ailments he or she needs one doctor responsible for looking after the patient and coordinating their care. Many doctors here feel that coordinator role belongs to their family physician. The AAFP wants a role. The heated discussion is around who pays for this coordination.

The feeling is that the cardiologist, oncologist, (you name the specialty)ologist don’t communicate effectively with each other, the patient and their family. This is hurting patient care.

Another big topic is what should the AAFP position be on “retail health clinics”. These are clinics set up in a pharmacy, food store, or as independent businesses to help patients with minor ailments. They usually have longer hours than a doctor’s office and accept walk in patients. A doctor or nurse practitioner at the clinic treats the patient and will send a report to the patient’s regular doctor if asked. Some AAFP members see this as competition. Others see it as a continuation of overall care.

In the end the organization adopted a resolution stating “AAFP does not endorse retail health clinics and believes that such health care delivery could interfere with the medical home.”

What does that mean? Are AAFP delegates in favor of seamless coordination of care or are they trying to protect their perceived turf?

There appears to be a need. People are getting sick at irregular hours and find it hard to get in to see their doctor if they have one. Family Practice doctors are overworked. I’m sure Walgreens, Kroger and other innovative companies will continue to offer and expand the service. Retail clinics are not going away.

Seems to me that organizations like AAFP should find ways to work with and help retail clinics. In return there are ways retail clinics can help a doctor grow her or his practice. The winner would be the patient. The pie is big enough for both and will only get bigger.

Until next time – all the best!


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