Collaborations gather disparate organizations together

The American College of Physicians collaborates with other medical societies about how internists can enable members to provide better patient experiences and outcomes, as well as increase access to affordable, available, high-quality, cost-conscious care.

Having worked in academic medicine for many years, I sympathize with the sentiment a colleague expressed: “I love what I do but could get a lot more accomplished if there weren't so many meetings.”

Scheduling, preparing for, and getting to and from meetings all take precious time. Afterwards, we're left dealing with all of the extra paper (and e-documents) while trying to recall whether anything was really accomplished. But there is no question that meetings can be valuable when used appropriately. Meeting face-to-face provides us with a unique opportunity to value each other's differences as well as similarities, thereby forming a strong foundation that helps find solutions to monumental problems.

I have especially come to recognize the real importance of face-to-face meetings with those outside the American College of Physicians (ACP). In-person discussions are essential to get us all to realize that medical societies have more common goals than differences of opinions. Even our differences are valuable, and voicing them gives us a better understanding of the issues. This insight, often overlooked due to opinions based on hearsay, prior experience or stereotyping, allows us to develop a basis for successful collaborations. At a time when so many issues of importance to our patients and our profession and so many dire circumstances are facing the country, collaboration is our best strategy to bring about needed change.

In the past month, I and other College leaders met with leadership from the American Medical Association (AMA), American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), Society of Hospital Medicine and National Medical Association (NMA) to talk about how we can enable our members to provide better patient experiences and outcomes. We also discussed ways to influence the public debate about increasing access to affordable, available, high-quality, cost-conscious care. It is gratifying to report that these organizations and others with which we collaborate are committed to these goals. We share many common policies and are working to build on our independent strengths to develop joint solutions.

The College collaborates with more than 150 organizations in areas such as certification and regulation, quality improvement and performance measures, and information technology and transfer. Our partners include other internal medicine and subspecialty societies, insurers, employers, hospital organizations, medical educators, and government and consumer groups. The critical issues in health care today are cost, work force development (including medical education), addressing disparities and payment and delivery reform. In all these areas, health care professionals need to focus on innovative solutions rather than trying to maintain the status quo in the misguided belief that each group can do better on its own.

An important step was taken in June when ACP and the AMA jointly supported the provision in health care reform that requires all citizens to have health care insurance by 2013. For more than 20 years, ACP has advocated for universal health care insurance. The AMA's reaffirmation of its support of this initiative is very valuable. In other areas of advocacy we issue joint statements or write letters with organizations who support our policy positions to encourage the administration and Congress to find a permanent fix for the Sustainable Growth Rate (more than 100 groups), strengthen the primary care workforce (eight co-signees) and avoid the negative consequences of reducing graduate medical education funding, to mention just a few.

In the field of education, with the Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine we have focused on residency training redesign and development of educational programs that include high-value, cost-conscious care. We belong to the Committee to End Health Care Disparities spearheaded by AMA, NMA and National Hispanic Medical Association as well as the National Partnership for Action, all committed to closing the gap on health care disparities. With ABIM we are looking to streamline maintenance of certification and maintenance of licensure. In disease-specific areas we have developed guidelines with several subspecialty internal medicine societies.

One of our most productive collaborations has been with the Patient Centered Primary Care Collaborative (PCPCC), which has more than 750 members and whose purpose is to develop and advance the patient-centered medical home. Currently, 27 multi-stakeholder pilots are underway in 18 states. Using ACP policy and working with our fellow societies providing primary care services, we and others developed guidelines that the PCPCC then endorsed. More information about the guidelines and related projects can be found here and here.

As we try to promote patients' participation in their care, our work with other leading health advocacy organizations resulted in the production of a consumer website. Productive partnerships and collaborations are more essential than ever if we are to develop integrated systems from the existing fragments in the increasingly complex health care environment. Their effectiveness will require continuing to find common ground, as well as valuing contributions of different approaches among all who believe in patient-centered, high-value care.

I trust you will join me and the College in furthering our collaborative efforts to ensure a better future for all our patients.