Q&A with ACP CEO Steven Weinberger, MD

With the American College of Physicians (ACP) Internal Medicine 2013 meeting set to convene April 9-13 at San Francisco's Moscone Center, PhysBizTech reached out to ACP Executive Vice President and CEO Steven Weinberger, MD, FACP, for a preview of the event.

PBT: To set the stage for the upcoming national meeting, what is your assessment of the current business environment for small physician practices?

SW: There are a lot of questions about where things are going, and what the changes in healthcare will mean. It's hard for me to remember a time when there so many transitions going on that could affect physician practices. It's an interesting and challenging time for them.

Changes are coming with the Affordable Care Act, the upcoming requirements related to performance reporting, quality reporting, adoption of electronic health records, along with payment models that evolving at the same time. There are also issues such as what is happening with Medicare funding in light of sequestration.

Overall, it's a combination of regulatory changes, reporting changes, changes in the technology environment, and changes in practice payment models. All of those things make it a time of challenge and uncertainty for the private practitioner.

At the same time, we're certainly seeing increasing numbers of practices that are either being affiliated with or bought up by larger healthcare systems and academic systems. And I think that poses a question to the practicing physician whether that is an attractive model or change that they should be thinking about.

PBT: What will Internal Medicine 2013 provide in terms of opportunities for attendees to increase their understanding of -- and preparation for -- this period of transition?

SW: There are five categories of topics outside of the traditional clinical topics that would be relevant to the kinds of practices that we're talking about.

First, there are a series of talks on how best to deliver care in a practice setting – not only for the patient, but also for the clinician. For example, there will be a session on small practice survival strategies and another on transitions in care -- coordinating care between the primary care physician and the subspecialist. These are the kinds of things that really relate to the nitty-gritty of how a practice delivers care.

A second category will give advice on coding and billing.

A third category will provide guidance and practical advice about implementation and application of electronic health records.

A fourth area will concentrate on what's happening in terms of payment models, such as accountable care organizations -- where the system is going as far as payment, for example.

And a fifth area will focus on what's happening in regulatory requirements. This will be a practical look at what the clinician will have to worry about over the coming year -- and coming years -- in terms of reporting, adoption of electronic medical records, maintenance of certification requirements, and those sorts of things.

PBT: Have you drawn upon the San Francisco region as a resource for educational content at the meeting?

SW: Not directly. Because this is an national meeting, we won’t focus specifically on what's happening in the local environment. People are coming to the meeting from all over the country.

Having said that, however, there is one area where we are actually involving ourselves very much in the San Francisco Bay community. For the first time, we're putting on a health fair for the general public. We have invited the general public to come to our health fair on Saturday April 13. We were targeting to get 1,000 people from the San Francisco Bay area to attend, and so far we've had 1,700 sign up.

PBT: What will happen at the health fair?

SW: It's focused particularly in the area of instructing patients about appropriate care…ensuring that they get the right amount of care – not too much and not too little. We want patients to understand the concepts of overuse and misuse of care. We'll emphasize that it is reasonable for them to have discussions with their clinician about whether a particular X-ray study is necessary or what kinds of screening tests they may need.

We'll also have a number of stations set up to provide information about various aspects of prevention, health and wellness. For example, the University of California San Francisco has a leadership program in smoking-cessation; they'll have a station where people can find out about smoking cessation. There will be additional opportunities like that.