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Perspective Article Highlights Innovations in Primary Care

Article summarizes approaches aimed at reducing burnout among primary care providers

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Creative approaches are needed to make professional life sustainable for the country's dwindling pool of primary care doctors, according to a Perspective article published in the Nov. 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In an article entitled "Innovation in Primary Care -- Staying One Step Ahead of Burnout," Susan Okie, M.D., a national correspondent for the NEJM, interviewed Christine Sinsky, M.D., a partner at Medical Associates Clinic and Health Plans, a 114-physician practice in Dubuque, Iowa. She also interviewed Scott Smith, M.D., associate medical director for primary care and service at Kaiser Permanente Colorado, which employs about 300 physicians.

Okie reported that Sinsky has become a nationally known innovator in primary care who encourages reforms aimed at helping office-based physicians "work smarter, not harder" by emphasizing teamwork, careful analysis of necessary tasks, and ensuring that doctors' time is spent only on essential activities by utilizing support staff. Okie reported that Kaiser Permanente Colorado has succeeded in granting doctors greater autonomy by offering multiple scheduling options including traditional appointments, telephone appointments and e-mail consultations.

"The general internists, family practitioners and geriatricians who provide primary care to adults face a growing population of elderly Americans with chronic conditions," Okie writes. "But their compensation is a fraction of what many specialists earn, and fewer and fewer U.S. medical school graduates are entering these fields -- making it increasingly tough to replace primary care physicians who retire and intensifying the pressures on those who remain."

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