Academic Medicine

Skip Navigation LinksHome > March 2012 - Volume 87 - Issue 3 > Commentary: Sense and Sensibility: The Role of Specialists...
Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31824483a0

Commentary: Sense and Sensibility: The Role of Specialists in Health Care Reform

Schwann, Nanette M. MD; Nester, Brian A. DO, MBA; McLoughlin, Thomas M. Jr. MD

Collapse Box


How to redesign the incentives structure in the United States to reward effective coordinated care rather than production volume is a staggering public health policy challenge. In the mind of the public, there is a fine distinction between health care rationing and rational health care. Specialists have a vital but underappreciated role in reining in health care costs, but specific incentives to elicit behavior change with positive social outcomes remain ambiguous. It is imperative, therefore, that redesigning the incentives structure is thoughtfully considered, modeled, and tested prior to implementation, lest an inferior-quality model is inadvertently adopted and costs are only marginally contained. Quality metrics need to be universal and reflect real patient outcomes instead of the degree of investment by the institution in the reporting tools. Still, specialists should take immediate action to implement safe and efficient procedures and to assess their long-term impact on patients' quality of life. Scientific evaluations should guide both the assessment of the appropriateness and the safe delivery of care. Investment in high-quality data architecture and the science of health delivery implementation is an imperative if health care reform is to achieve its goals. Coordination and collaboration between specialists and primary care physicians is essential to this enterprise. Specialists can champion these efforts as they pertain to their areas of expertise by considering their care episodes in the context of the patient as a whole, working closely with generalists, and returning to the mindset of the specialist as a family doctor.

© 2012 Association of American Medical Colleges


Article Tools


Article Level Metrics