Hospital attempts to close primary care residency to boost margins

Patient-centered medical homes, accountable care organizations, fully covered preventive care and value-based reimbursement are just a few of the healthcare industry's recent developments all sharing the same common denominator: Heavy reliance on primary care physicians (PCPs) to keep people healthy.

It's no wonder, then, that a major hospital's recent announcement that it would close its family medicine residency program sent shockwaves through not just the room in which 30 trainee doctors were fired, but through the healthcare industry and mainstream media at large.

The backlash against New York's Presbyterian Hospital was so powerful, in fact, that the hospital announced it reversed its decision, via Twitter, within just three hours of informing the residents the program would close, according to an opinion piece written by the residents and published by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Nonetheless, it's the hospital's stated reason for the planned closure--which was not a lack of funding, but a strategic move to focus resources on higher-margin specialty care--that caused arguably the most outrage during those three hours, and makes the students more leery going forward.

"Although we cheered the decision--and we have been awestruck by the power of our community of family doctors, government allies and student leaders--we remain clear-eyed about the obstacles that lie ahead," the students wrote.

Indeed, although the Columbia University students' voices were heard on October 12, "the market they're going to enter after graduating is in the midst of a huge shake-up, noted an article in Business Insider.

Getting physicians interested in the lower-paying, historically lower-profile field of primary care has been a known challenge in recent years, as has medical schools' ability to provide enough residency slots for students who want to enter family and internal medicine or pediatrics. Although medical schools have been experimenting with novel ways to get more PCPs into the workforce, many experts predict that the demands on PCPs will continue to grow as the Affordable Care Act reaches full implementation and aging Baby Boomers require more services.

To learn more:
- read the opinion piece
- see the article