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IOM: Practices and public health must collaborate

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) believes your practice and your community’s public health officials need to work together.

The traditional separation between primary care physicians (PCPs) and public health professionals is hurting population health, says a new report from the IOM.

The report highlights examples such as the Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC) program, which is a statewide organization to coordinate and improve the care quality for Medicaid recipients. One network, based in Durham, is organized and operated by PCPs, hospitals, health departments, and departments of social services and funded by per capita payments from Medicaid. The network is responsible for improving outcomes and achieving cost savings. The primary care practices that work with the CCNC receive additional per capita payments from Medicaid to help achieve the network’s goals, according to the report.

The report also cites the Healthy San Francisco project in California, run by the city’s health department. It links uninsured residents with primary care practices that are compensated through the project. The report lauds a city-funded program in New York City called Take Care New York. It, in part, assists PCPs with care coordination for patients with diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, and smoking.

In the report, the IOM does not advocate for a complete merger of primary care and public health organizations. Every community will be different, and not all will be able to achieve true partnership, it says. In some communities, achieving mutual awareness will mark a significant step forward, but it will be useful to strive for greater integration when possible.

“While integrating fields that have long operated separately may seem like a daunting endeavor, our nation has undertaken many major [healthcare] initiatives,” said committee chairman Paul J. Wallace, senior vice president and director, Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research, in a statement. “It's time we did the same for primary care and public health, which together form the foundation of our population's overall well-being.”

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