AAFP Recommends Policies to Reform the Nation's Graduate Medical Education System

Monday, Sept. 15, 2014

Megan Moriarty
Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237 Ext. 6052

LEAWOOD, Kan.—The nation’s graduate medical education system, established in 1965, is not designed or functioning in a manner capable of meeting the education and training needs of the next generation of physicians, according to a proposal set out today by the American Academy of Family Physicians. Unfortunately, the current GME system may actually work against achieving a physician workforce that meets the health care needs of current and future generations.

While medicine and medical science have undergone revolutionary changes in the past 50 years, the GME system has not. As a result, taxpayers invest more than $15 billion annually to train physicians with little to no transparency on how the money is invested and no accountability on the part of sponsoring institutions that receive the funds.

There is a growing national discussion on the need for GME reform, most notably the release of the Institute of Medicine report, Graduate Medical Education that Meets the Nation’s Health Needs(www.iom.edu). The AAFP agrees that the nation’s GME system must be reformed.

The current hospital-based GME system is simply not appropriate for modern health care delivery or the training of the future physician workforce. Hospitals will always play an important role in the health delivery and medical education system, but they should no longer be the focal point. The United States must build a system better designed to train the next generation of physicians in care settings that afford them the skills they will need to deliver high quality care to their patients, the AAFP proposal says. 

“Reform of a 50-year-old program will be difficult and there are numerous ideas on how reform should occur,” said Jeffrey J. Cain, MD, FAAFP, chair of the AAFP Board of Directors. “Today, the AAFP is sharing our proposal and adding our voices to a growing debate on this important issue.”

The AAFP proposal, Aligning Resources, Increasing Accountability, and Delivering a Primary Care Physician Workforce for America, calls for greater accountability and transparency in the GME system and an alignment of national investment in meeting the physician workforce needs of the country. The proposal also creates a mechanism to ensure that the training of physicians occurs in the most appropriate settings and not solely in a hospital.

“While our current system excels at educating and training highly skilled specialists and physician researchers, it fails to produce enough primary care physicians to meet the health care needs of our nation,” said Cain. “The AAFP isn’t suggesting that our nation’s GME system has failed. We are suggesting that our GME system has excelled at what it was designed to promote, but it is time to change those incentives.”

The AAFP proposes the following changes in the financing of GME to align taxpayer dollars with the training of primary care physicians:

  1. Limit payments for direct graduate medical education and indirect graduate medical education to training for first-certificate residency programs.
  2. Establish primary care thresholds and maintenance-of-effort requirements for all sponsoring institutions and teaching hospitals currently receiving Medicare and Medicaid GME financing.
  3. Require all sponsoring institutions and teaching hospitals seeking new Medicare- and Medicaid-financed GME positions to meet primary care training thresholds as a condition of residency program expansion.
  4. Align financial resources with population health care needs through a reduction in IME payments and allocation of those resources to support innovation in GME.
  5. Fund the National Health Care Workforce Commission.

“It is important that our national investment in GME supports a system that is transparent, accountable and meets the health care needs of our citizens,” noted Cain. “These recommendations will transition our GME system away from a hospital-based system and toward a robust, community-based system that trains physicians to be well positioned to provide care to our growing and aging population.”

# # #

Founded in 1947, the American Academy of Family Physicians represents 134,600 physicians and medical students nationwide, and it is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five of the total medical office visits in the United States per year – more than any other specialty. Family physicians provide comprehensive, evidence-based, and cost-effective care dedicated to improving the health of patients, families and communities. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing and personal patient-physician relationship where the family physician serves as the hub of each patient’s integrated care team. More Americans depend on family physicians than on any other medical specialty.

To learn more about the AAFP and family medicine, visit www.aafp.org/media. Follow us on Twitter,(twitter.com) and like us on Facebook. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website, www.familydoctor.org(familydoctor.org).