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November 16, 2012 - USA Department of Family Medicine Receives Funding to Improve Primary Care Delivery
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Dr. Carol Motley, associate professor of family medicine at the USA College of Medicine, directed a grant that seeks to improve the understanding of primary care among students during their first two years of medical school.

In Alabama, our state's health care delivery system is challenged with a shortage of primary physicians. Since the inception of the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, the USA department of family medicine has made significant progress in addressing this shortage through its training program.

Recently, the department was awarded several grants to support this effort.

Dr. Allen Perkins, professor and chair of the department of family medicine, said that the USA College of Medicine received funding to improve primary care in two different arenas that will help to make medical students and residents better family doctors. The college’s family practice and community medicine unit has been awarded almost $400,000 from both the Alabama Family Practice Rural Health Board and the Health Resources and Services Administration to improve primary care delivery by making curriculum changes in the department’s medical school and residency programs.

The changes are intended to increase the number of students pursuing family medicine and will aid in the transformation of the practice in preparation for new expectations of health care delivery.

“With better health care delivery, people in our region will live longer and be healthier,” said Dr. Perkins. “The role of the family physician is an important part of health care, focusing on prevention and organizing appropriate care when needed.”

The two grants that support activities in the medical school total $239,613 and seek to improve the understanding of primary care among students during their first two years of medical school. Directed by Dr. Carol Motley, associate professor of family medicine at the USA College of Medicine, the first grant creates specific cases that identify and highlight primary care as a means of improving care for different patients in the new curriculum. The second segment develops a new curriculum in early patient care, where the students have the opportunity to go into remote primary care offices and learn how to deliver care in a geographically underserved setting.

“We want the students to learn how to deliver care in underserved areas so when they graduate from medical school they have a working understanding of health care in this setting,” said Dr. Perkins.

Both changes in curriculum are meant to address the shortage of primary care physicians and create an environment where family medicine is a sought-after specialty. Dr. Perkins said this represents a window of opportunity to put in place early contact for first and second-year medical students with primary care clinical experiences to initiate innovative strategies and models of teaching.

Directed by Dr. Perkins, the third grant totals $151,537 and will allow the residency program to be more focused on delivering care differently by redesigning the entire practice to deliver care with a patient-centered focus. With the United States facing a historic shift in health care and the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, there will be increased emphasis on the quality of care tied directly to outcomes rather than services alone.

Dr. Perkins said there are several variations of health care delivery in the United States, and those areas of the country with more primary care physicians have lower costs and improved patient outcomes.

“Medicine in the United States has become fragmented and inefficient, and studies have identified that this accounts for 20 percent of health care costs,” said Dr. Perkins. “The good news is that the Affordable Care Act will further emphasize the important role of primary care, which will help reduce waste and inefficiencies.”

Dr. Perkins said more care is not necessarily better care, and more and more patients appreciate the practice of evidence-based care.

According to Dr. Perkins, these grants will help prepare the family physician to provide the best care possible amid changes in our health care delivery system.

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