A missing seat at the C-suite table: The chief primary care medical officer

Doctors talking
A chief primary care medical officer could help lead hospital efforts to ensure primary care’s continuum is complete even for the most complex patients, two physicians say. (Getty/wmiami)

In order to improve care coordination after a patient’s discharge, hospitals need more than a hospitalist. Healthcare organizations must create a position for the chief primary care medical officer or a CPCMO, who will serve as an expert in practice across the spectrum of care.

That’s the opinion of Noemi Doohan, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of California Davis, in Sacramento, California, and Jennifer DeVoe, M.D., of the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Oregon. They advocated for the new position in an article for The Annals of Family Medicine.

“The CPCMO can lead hospital efforts to create systems that ensure primary care’s continuum is complete, while strengthening physician collaboration across specialties, and moving toward achieving the Quadruple Aim of enhancing patient experience, improving population health, reducing costs and improving the work life of healthcare providers,” they wrote.

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The new role will help hospitals that have embraced value-based care models with their goals of improving measurable outcomes, such as decreased lengths of stay and readmission rates, as well as improved transitions of care, patient satisfaction, access to primary care and patient health, according to the authors.

They argue that the position will help lead hospital efforts to ensure primary care’s continuum is complete even for the most complex patients.

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The ideal CPCMO, they say, would be a primary care physician who spends a quarter or his or her time in continuity clinic, a quarter of time doing clinical work in the hospital with participation on daily hospital case management roles, and the remaining half of the time on administrative work in hospital leadership.

The person should have members and voting rights on key hospital committees, such as the Medical Executive Committee and with the hospital medical staff leadership. The CPCMO must also maintain skills in hospital and continuity clinical medicine in order to stay current in these changing practice environments, they said.

“This is a call for family medicine as a discipline to re-evaluate our purpose, and re-embrace our mission by championing innovations such as the CPCMO which are inspired by the traditional primary care values of personal doctoring,” they concluded. “As family physicians, we can (and must) reclaim our personal physician role in our patients’ lives and communities and advocate for system changes that support better health.”