American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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Regents outline new strategic plan at winter meeting

From the March ACP Observer, copyright 2007 by the American College of Physicians.

By Ryan DuBosar

Attracting more physicians to specialize in internal medicine and helping members move toward using information technology and quality measurements were key elements in a new strategic plan approved by the Board of Regents at its January meeting. The Regents also approved a program aimed at guiding medical students' interactions with pharmaceutical representatives and guidelines on monitoring the growth of retail health clinics.

Highlights of the strategic plan include:

  • Increase interest in and the attractiveness of careers in internal medicine;
  • Improve access to care;
  • Increase member adoption of health information technology;
  • Prepare and support members for quality improvement initiatives, performance recognition incentives and cost of care measures;
  • Increase total membership focusing on students, residents/fellows and young physicians;
  • Increase the value, use and financial performance of key ACP education and information resources;
  • Promote awareness of professionalism and ethics among members and the public to affirm the physician-patient relationship and physicians' responsibilities to society;
  • Increase ACP's financial stability; and
  • Improve internists' clinical knowledge, professional behavior and practice skills.

The Regents also approved a "Drug Smart" card to help medical residents prepare for interactions with drug company sales representatives. The Regents noted that such interactions occur without faculty supervision and can create an expectation of reciprocity, "making it difficult for trainees to critically evaluate and contest the claims made by drug companies."

"Drug Smart" is an acronym with each letter emphasizing a key point to remember when meeting with drug reps. The points are summarized form their full text as:

Dinners create relationships that affect clinical judgment.
Research is key to treatment.
Understand costs to patients.
Gifts diminish objectivity.

Selected information gets presented; critically evaluate it.
Monetary rewards should be declined.
Alternates such as generics should be considered.
Restrict interaction to educational contacts.
Talk to peers about potential bias.

The program emphasizes focus on a drug's clinical efficacy, suitability and cost to patients as the overriding standard for the use of medications. ACP's Council of Associates will make the card available to Associate and Medical Student members at Internal Medicine 2007.

The Regents also approved "Principles on Retail Health Clinics" to aid chapters in dealing with rise of retail clinics in their regions. ACP's Health and Public Policy Committee recommended that the principles guide the establishment and operation of retail health clinics and that the College continue to monitor their growth and impact. The principles will be posted on ACP's advocacy Web site and background information will be available upon request.

The principles direct retail health clinics to:

  • have a well-defined and limited scope of clinical services;
  • give their health care practitioners direct access to supervising physicians;
  • use standard medical protocols based on evidence-based guidelines;
  • communicate with the patient's primary care doctor or medical home;
  • have a referral system to physicians to establish continuity of care; and
  • provide for continuous coverage of patients during off hours.

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