Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Duke's Primary Care Leadership Track

Future primary care providers will work in patient centered medical homes (PCMHs). This new model of care will be different than traditional practice models. Primary care physicians will work in inter-disciplinary teams, be expected to coordinate and integrate care with others in the medical neighborhood, and they will be held accountable for the quality of care provided to patients. Medical schools are responding by implementing programs and special tracks to prepare medical students to work in these innovative practice models.

One of the best examples nationally is Duke University School of Medicine's Primary Care Leadership Track (PCLT). Applicants to Duke's program apply specifically to the PCLT and this year alone they received well over a hundred applications. The PCLT works to develop students into national leaders in primary care.

The first year of medical school is largely the same in that students in the PCLT spend the majority of their time studying the basic sciences. At the end of their first year, they take their step 1 exams and immediately move into a longitudinal clerkship experience.

Students spend about 80 percent of their time in the outpatient setting alternating clinic days between medical practices. For example, every Monday a student will go to an internal medicine clinic, Tuesday she will go to her Family Med Clinic, Psychiatry on Wednesday, and Pediatrics on Thursday. This provides the students with continuity of care within each of the core disciplines and gives them a chance to follow their patients' care over the course of a year.

Students also are assigned to a panel of about 20 patients who they follow throughout the entire year. Every time one of the patients in their panel has a medical appointment, surgery, emergency department visit, or baby delivery, the student is expected to be there with the patient. This provides students with the unique insight of how patients flow through the medical system.

Within the PCLT curriculum, students go through a PCMH mini-course. The mini-course is designed to teach students the core values of primary care and PCMHs. Students are then engaging in medical practices who are working towards PCMH accreditation by taking on an innovation projects. A good example of a project is when one student worked with a clinic to meet phone call back goals. The student tracked the average length of time it took the clinic to call their patients back and then he worked with the clinic to shorten the interval. Other projects have looked at follow up rates and length of time from the point of hospital discharge, quality metrics for diabetic patients, and rate of specialist to primary care provider communication after the patient sees their specialist physician.

Engaging students in innovation projects is developing strong leadership skills and showing students the inner workings of this new model of care. Students will be ahead of their peers once they start practicing as they will have real life experience in improving practice models which are truly patient-centered.

Duke's focus on primary care is inspiring and they are setting the bar for preparing and producing future leaders in primary care medicine.

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