Last week, I wrote about serendipitously discovering the work of Primary Care Progress, a grassroots physician advocacy group trying to strengthen primary care. The serendipity continued shortly after I saw their work in cyberspace, when I got a chance to meet some of its leaders in the real world (in Philadelphia). Because of the Foundation’s belief that enhanced primary care is one of the essential pillars for improving the health of older Americans, last Monday I attended a meeting sponsored by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation. The topic: returning joy to primary care.
You might wonder how returning joy to physicians and other people working in primary care (although most meeting attendees were MDs) would relate to the Foundation’s mission of improving the health of older Americans. But I think the evidence is clear that people who enjoy their work do it better, stay in their careers, and make the work seem more attractive to others. And, if we are to provide the kind of comprehensive and proactive primary care that older adults need, we certainly need more primary care providers (of all professions) who really want to do it.
At the Foundation, we have invested significantly in research and training to try to discover how primary care can better support healthy aging. Projects like IMPACT, Care Management Plus, Guided Care, and the Practicing Physician Education initiative have all tried to make that happen. Other projects such as Indiana University’s GRACE and the Atlantic Philanthropies-funded ACOVE Prime have also offered important lessons on how to make primary care more aging-friendly. We continue to be very interested in how reinvestment in primary care careers, improved payment, and systems redesign can make this critical part of the health care system better able to serve the older adult population. And, of course, we are very aware of the defects and frustrations of primary care as it often very ineffectively tries to serve older people, as I’ve written about here and here. (In a few weeks the Foundation will be releasing the results of its first-ever poll of the experience of primary care by older adults that we hope will shed some additional light on this topic.)