May 22, 2018, 03:54 pm Sheri Porter – Many independent family medicine practices across the country consider themselves left behind as the nation surges toward a value-based health care system.
Part of the problem is an ever growing maze of regulations that just don't make sense for these practices and have not made accommodations for the reduced scale of operation and limited resources available to those physicians who enjoy independent practice.
But change is in the air with the launch of a new coalition dubbed the Partnership to Empower Physician-Led Care (PEPC), of which the AAFP is a founding member.
Other founders are the California Medical Association, the Florida Medical Association, the Texas Medical Association and its TMA PracticeEdge, the Medical Group Management Association and Aledade, a nationwide value-based care network.
In a May 10 press release, PEPC Executive Director Kristen McGovern said of the coalition, "We believe it is impossible to achieve truly value-based care without a robust independent practice community. Our goal is to ensure that independent practices are recognized as a vital part of the health care system and are given a clear path to continue to contribute to this transformation."
In the same press release, AAFP President Michael Munger, M.D., of Overland Park, Kan., echoed that sentiment.
"While our delivery system may have changed in recent years, one thing continues to ring true -- family physicians play a central role in improving health care for individuals, families and communities across the country," said Munger. "Physicians and physician-led groups are leading the movement to value-based care."
The press release points out that independent physicians comprise nearly half of the nation's total physician workforce but "the significant role they play in leading the movement to value-based care is overlooked."
Clearly, notes the release, not all stakeholders understand that independent practices can assume risk for their patients and take the lead in alternative payment models, such as accountable care organizations (ACOs).
In fact, those same independent practices have shown they are capable of providing higher quality care and generating more savings than other types of care models.
For instance, an analysis of the Medicare Shared Savings Program showed that 45 percent of physician-only ACOs earned savings and "they were significantly more likely to do so than other types of ACOs," said the PEPC.
In an interview with AAFP News, Munger stressed the benefits the coalition's work will bring to family medicine and especially to those family physicians who practice in privately owned clinics.
"This coalition will advocate to all stakeholders the importance of independent practices to the health care system and the value they bring to improve quality and lower cost of care," said Munger.
AAFP members should start seeing results fairly quickly in the form of enhanced opportunities to participate in value-based payment arrangements and expanded abilities to offer health care to their patients through alternative payment models, said Munger.
He was upbeat about the timeline for action. "Education and advocacy efforts will now begin the process of aligning the value of the independent practice community for the health care system," he said.
Munger reassured his family medicine colleagues that this is not a new direction for the AAFP, but rather a parallel venture that has the power of multiple organizations pushing good ideas forward together.
"The AAFP has long supported independent practice for our members," said Munger. "Joining this coalition is another important step we've taken to give family physicians the help they need to not just survive -- but to thrive as they move their practices to value-based care.”
The PEPC defines itself in the release as a membership organization "dedicated to supporting value-based care to reduce costs, improve quality, empower patients and physicians, and increase access to care for millions Americans through a competitive health care provider market."
As such, the PEPC stands with independent physician practices that are pursuing value-based care as well as the organizations that support them.
Before assuming her position as PEPC executive director, McGovern served at HHS and the Office of Management and Budget. She is considered an expert in health care policy.