Healthcare Reform Will Dominate Internal Medicine Meeting

Ingrid Hein

March 23, 2017

Healthcare reform and improving the quality of care will drive the discussion at the American College of Physicians (ACP) Internal Medicine meeting, which opens in San Diego on March 30.

But the most passionate exchanges will likely take place during sessions and panels on health policy and record keeping, as internists try to address the health reforms being brought in by the new administration, according to organizers.

"Many doctors see that the climate of healthcare is changing, and they want to know what it all means," said Patrick Alguire, MD, vice president of membership and internal programs at the ACP.

Robust presentations on health policy and medical regulation have been integrated into the meeting's scientific program, which is new this year. "Physicians are concerned about patients who might lose their insurance and access to care," Dr Alguire told Medscape Medical News.

 
Physicians are concerned about patients who might lose their insurance and access to care.
 

For the 54 million people covered by Obamacare, there are pretty huge changes in the offing. "What can be done to help them? What will shifts in the administration mean for the Affordable Care Act? This is certainly going to be a very exciting part of the meeting," he said.

There will likely be a lot of discussion about health records and the collection of data. The concept of "patients before paperwork" resonates with our members. "What can be done to ease administrative burdens for physicians and their patients?" Dr Alguire asked. "This is certainly an area that addresses physician wellness," because physician burnout and paperwork related to the delivery of healthcare are likely linked.

Physician Burnout

The popularity of the topic of physician wellness "caught me by surprise," Dr Alguire explained, noting that it is "relatively new to the meeting." But "sessions addressing resilience and burnout are on the agenda because of physician demand."

Even changes that don't seem to be related to healthcare, like those to immigration policy, could have a dramatic effect on internists. "Nearly 40% of physicians in the United States come from foreign counties," Dr Alguire pointed out. "What happens if we turn that pipeline off? Those doctors tend to practice in underserved areas; they make up a huge part of our manpower." A deficit of physicians in remote areas engenders grave concerns and anxiety.

Those issues, the impact the rising cost of prescription drugs is having on patients, and more will be addressed in hour-long talk delivered by Bob Doherty, senior vice president for governmental affairs and public policy at the ACP.

Opioid Epidemic

Public health concerns related to the opioid epidemic will be addressed in sessions on safe prescribing and on addiction issues. Already — 2 weeks before the meeting — a free premeeting course on safe opioid prescribing is "completely 'sold out,' so-to-speak," Dr Alguire reported. "This issue continues to be a huge area of concern."

When physicians are finished with the discourse and education sessions, they will likely head in droves to the "Doctor's Dilemma" showdown. The event brings out the competitive spirit in medical residents, as they compete in a fast-paced Jeopardy-style test of medical knowledge, he explained.

"Watching the elimination round of the competition is something I truly look forward to," he told Medscape Medical News. Previous teams have included competitors from Japan, the Middle East, and the Philippines, "but it is primarily US training programs competing." The final four teams will face off on the last day of the meeting for the Osler Cup, a coveted ACP trophy.

And that's not the only showdown. In a Shark Tank–style competition, called "Dragon's Lair: Breathing Fire Into Health Care Transformation," winners are awarded a $7500 funding prize to develop their projects. In addition, an audience choice prize of $2500 will be awarded.

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