INTERNATIONAL: The UK plans for a group practice future

Showing again that innovation isn’t dead in single-payer (and for that matter socialized) systems, the Brits are serious about creating the environment for pay for performance.  In an article called Super-surgery plan signals end for the family doctor, the Times reports that the British government is planning on coalescing its traditional onesy-twosey GP practices into bigger units.

While the article is full of fears about the end of Dr Finlay (the UK’s TV version of Marcus Welby), and also ridiculous claims that it’s being pushed because mass murdering GP Harold Shipman got away with his crimes because he had no partner looking over his shoulder, the real issue is that the Brits now believe that group practice in primary care will create better quality care.

They have already instituted a pay-for-performance model for primary care that rewards physician practices for hitting a number of process targets.  And over the last decade, they have spent the money and the necessary political capital to computerize practices.  Now they are going to force the GPs into the organizational form that has been shown in the states to create the environment for continuous care quality improvement, and of course have the shared resources to put in the systems that can monitor those processes.

Obviously there are lots of problems with the British system, and the connectivity both in terms of IT and in terms of communication between the primary care and the specialty care parts of the system is still an issue, and will be even when the huge IT project gets done — and that has its own problems.  But the fact remains that, despite all the knocks on the UK system, because it is government controlled it’s able to push the providers into a format that–according to the tenets of the best health services research–has been shown to produce the most effective medical care.

Of course, while there is a good game talked about that by Brailer and McClellan, they must be very envious of the relative power of their British equivalents.

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