One of IU School of Medicine’s seven strategic priorities is to improve population health in the Hoosier state. To this end, earlier this year, IU Health Physicians rolled out the Community Medicine initiative to recruit more specialists and reduce the waiting time for patients seeking an appointment.
We asked Kevin Gebke, MD, chair, Department of Family Medicine, and IU Health VP of community medicine, more about the community medicine initiative and why it is so critical to the mission of the school.
Why was the faculty practice plan expanded to include community medicine clinicians?
As we expanded the primary care patient base, we experienced a high demand for specialty services that we just could not meet. Today, many referred patients wait two months or longer for an appointment with a specialist. And frankly, when a patient has a new health problem that needs to be addressed, or a health concern a primary care physician needs specialist input for, two months is too long to wait.
By broadening IU Health Physicians to include practitioners who spend most of their time seeing patients, we are able to better meet the demand for our services. With this new model, we are on a two-year trajectory to provide access to care within seven days.
Is there now a separate physician group dedicated to community medicine?
The key principle is we did not create two competing care delivery models. We have simply created an opportunity for community-minded physicians to still be employed by IU Health Physicians while devoting the majority of their time to patient care. Academic responsibilities are still part of the expectation; however, to a lesser extent.
How does community medicine recruitment benefit faculty at IU School of Medicine?
First, the community medicine expansion provides flexibility for our physicians: if we have a physician spending more than 75 percent of their time practicing in a suburban location, we can give them the choice to practice solely as community medicine provider.
As a department chair, I’ve used this to my advantage to select the family medicine providers we hire to provide primary care – selecting some providers to be dually employed by IU School of Medicine and IU Health Physicians, while others can be solely employed by IU Health Physicians. This in turn frees up more department resources for research and teaching.
What differences will patients see with the physician practice expansion?
Essentially, patients will see no difference in terms of when they come to the office. In many instances, academic and community medicine clinicians will practice side-by-side.
However, patients will see a difference in improved access to our general specialists as we grow our physician group based on clinical needs. Neurology, for example, with approval to recruit five additional neurologists between the Department of Neurology and community medicine – we can recruit more clinicians to provide the critical care our community needs.
Has community medicine integration been implemented in other parts of the country?
We are seeing a national trend toward community medicine and academic integration. Health systems across the country are at various stages of this – with some integrating through acquiring community medicine practices. We looked at health systems that were further along in this process and from there made the decision to integrate community medicine clinicians into our established practice plan.