December 4, 2007

Last Updated: 2007-12-03 17:00:32 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – The American College of Physicians (ACP), the second largest physician group in the US, released recommendations on Monday for achieving a quality healthcare system in the US, which they say must start with universal health insurance coverage.

In generating the recommendations, the ACP analyzed healthcare systems in 12 industrialized countries, according to the report which was released on the Annals of Internal Medicine web site and will appear later in the January 1, 2008 print edition.

"Our recommendations provide evidence-based solutions to our country’s many healthcare problems — including the appalling lack of access to affordable health coverage, the impending crisis caused by the insufficient supply of primary care physicians, rising healthcare costs, and excessive administrative and regulatory costs," ACP President Dr. David C. Dale said in a statement.

The report points out that the US spends more on healthcare than any other country in the world and spending on healthcare has risen faster than spending in any other part of the economy. Still, roughly 47 million Americans, almost 16% of the population, are uninsured.

The ACP offers eight recommendations for improving healthcare in the US:

–Provide universal health insurance coverage and make sure that all residents have equitable access to appropriate healthcare without excessive financial obstacles.

–Ensure that patients have access to the health information needed so that they can make informed decisions and be prudent purchasers.

–Develop a national workforce to maintain adequate numbers of primary care physicians.

–Redirect federal healthcare policy in support of the "patient-centered medical home," a system that fosters the physician-patient relationship by having a primary care physician lead a team of healthcare professionals as they manage the entire range of a patient’s needs.

–Provide physicians with financial incentives to encourage disease prevention efforts, care coordination, and achievement of evidence-based performance standards.

–Create a uniform billing system for all services to cut the costs of healthcare administration.

–Use federal funds to support an inter-operable health information technology infrastructure.

–Encourage public and private financial support for medical research, including studies comparing the effectiveness of various treatments.

"Successful national healthcare systems have taken many routes to paying for healthcare, but they share one essential characteristic: the government guarantees that every citizen will have health insurance," Dr. Harold S. Cox, an editor with the Annals of Internal Medicine, writes in a related editorial.

"Why do Americans tolerate a system that leaves one sixth of its citizens with poor access to basic medical care?" he adds. "Perhaps the example of other countries will motivate some Annals readers to join ACP in demanding decisive action from our own leaders."

Ann Intern Med 2008.