Are Primary Care Providers the Cool Kids Now? Dr. Marci Nielsen Thinks So

Marci and intern

Dr. Marci Nielsen sees herself as a cheerleader for primary care. All photos provided.

Are we Clueless, and has Cher Horowitz finally found her Tai Frasier? Are primary care providers the cool kids now? According to Dr. Marci Nielsen, Chief Executive Officer of the Washington, DC-based Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative (PCPCC), primary care providers are on the up-and-up.

Dr. Nielsen tells us that the PCPCC was founded in 2007 by four primary care organizations recognizing the decline, possibly even ostracizing, of primary care in America. This decline was causing disjointed and poorly coordinated care for patients. These four organizations were the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), American College of Physicians (ACP), and the American Academy of Pediatrics, who together with IBM as a large employer, came together to build a national movement promoting the widespread adoption of the patient-centered medical homes and garnering support for primary care. Since then, the PCPCC has grown to represent more than 1,200 medical home stakeholders, all passionate about making primary care work in this country.

Dr. Nielsen says that although she had been on the faculty and in a leadership role at the University of Kansas Medical Center for 7 years, she was thrilled when she was invited to be the first public member of the American Board of Family Medicine, but then profoundly saddened to hear how down-trodden and disheartened primary care providers were feeling. Dr. Nielsen, who describes herself as a well-educated, enthusiastic “Cheerleader of Primary Care,” urges primary care providers to stand up, brush off the dust, and push forward. She wants all physicians, internal and family medicine, to band together to harness the energy of a political  movement and ”walk out with signs and go picket something.” She knows a little something about organizing, given her years working on Capitol Hill, running a state health agency, lobbying for the labor movement, and serving in the military as well as the Peace Corps.

On a less positive note, Nielsen warns that sometimes when you get a group of doctors in a room together, you’ll hear a common theme regarding the state of primary care. After dedicating countless hours and money to intense training, there’s a lot at stake for physicians. But now there’s a window of opportunity: insurance companies, large companies, many in Congress, and the Administration (referring to the current President, not the guys who remind you how many notes you haven’t finished) want to invest in primary care. “The window of opportunity is now, under this Administration, unlike ever before,” she says. She urges physicians to seize the moment and guide us to a better place.

Marci and Kavita

Hear Dr. Nielsen speak on Sept. 16 at Harvard Medical School.

This is why Nielsen is so excited to be a Celebrity Judge in the Primary Care Innovation Challenge (#PCC14) final pitch-off on September 16, 2014. The Challenge is focused on celebrating primary care innovation around the country, and on empowering primary care front-line workers to find new best practices, get involved, communicate, and find solutions. She also loves that the traditional silos– the policywonks, as she calls them, as well as the educators, the advocates, the academics, the innovators, and the practicing clinicians are all coming together. It takes understanding all the parts to create real, effective transformations, she says, and only together will we be effective agents of change. Nielsen is also excited that Boston is pushing physician entrepreneurs, because the best innovation comes from groups who have clinicians in leadership, who best know what the current health system lacks.

The most exciting part of the Challenge? For Nielsen, it’s the excitement, energy, and focus on patient engagement. She says that we teach a provider-centric primary care model just because that’s what we know. She loves that the Challenge has “so many different folks thinking differently, and that’s what patients and their families need.” Though many innovations focus on patient centered medical home models, and the Affordable Care Act supports this model, it’s very important to understand that this model will not be sustainable under the fee-for-service payment system, Nielsen says. Payment reform needs to happen in Medicare and then it will diffuse across the health system.

Because Primary Care Providers are now the cool kids, to make this a truly hip and democratic, crowd-sourced event, please vote on the theme music to be played when Dr. Nielsen arrives on stage.

Excited about the Pitch-Off scheduled for Tuesday, September 16 at Harvard Medical School and want to hear Dr. Nielsen herself? Get your free tickets here!

Jennifer M. Joe, MD

Jennifer M. Joe, MD

    My passion is healthcare optimization, whether that is with innovation, making scientific discoveries, or improving delivery. I love bringing people and ideas together and making projects work. With this, medicine exists to improve lives, and I will strive to always help patients and those around me.

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