AAFP picks doctors to test new practice care model
■ Family physicians hope that the national project will help them reshape the specialty.
By Damon Adams — Posted April 24, 2006
Starting in June, 36 family practices will spend two years under the microscope as part of an effort to transform family medicine to a new model of care that is patient-centered and relies on electronic medical records.
The American Academy of Family Physicians this month announced the three dozen practices chosen to take part in a national demonstration project of TransforMED, an $8 million AAFP practice redesign initiative. The practices were selected from more than 300 applicants and represent a variety of practice sizes.
"This is a real-world learning lab that we want to help family physicians and hopefully other primary care [doctors] learn how to, in a cost-effective, efficient way, implement" an electronic health records system, said Terry McGeeney, MD, president and CEO of TransforMED.
Theresa Shupe, MD, is one of the physicians chosen for the project. She works in a group practice in Manassas, Va., but plans to open a solo practice in Haymarket, Va., about 40 miles from Washington, D.C.
She said the transition to a new model of care won't be easy, but she will embrace the changes to better serve patients, welcoming e-mail from patients and group visits. "I look forward to having a medical home for patients, better quality care and being able to improve the lives and the health of my patients."
The project is a result of the Future of Family Medicine report, which national family medicine organizations released in 2004. The report called for transforming the specialty to a new model whose core elements include patient-centered care, electronic health records, team approach to care, open access for patients, and a focus on quality and safety.
A financial analysis undertaken as part of the project said the estimated transition costs for the model would range from $23,442 to $90,650 per doctor, depending on productivity loss related to implementing an electronic health records system.
The demonstration project will start in June. Participants will pay for improvements such as electronic systems. The practices will be split into two groups, one group receiving support from practice redesign experts and the other getting access to practice improvement tools and services. Both groups will be evaluated and the findings will be shared on an ongoing basis, AAFP officials said. A final report is expected in 2009.
"We think it will improve the quality of care for our patients," TransforMED board Chair James C. Martin, MD, said of the new model.
Family medicine leaders say that as fewer future physicians choose their specialties, the profession must change to survive. Leaders see the TransforMED initiative as a way to start making those changes.
"The Future of Family Medicine [report] has given us a road map for that future," said AAFP President Larry S. Fields, MD. "Buckle your seatbelts, it's going to be a heck of a ride."