Medical Specialty Status Could Boost Nursing Home Docs

Marginalization of physicians in nursing home threatens patient care

TUESDAY, March 17 (HealthDay News) -- Granting physicians working in nursing homes the status of medical specialists in their own right would help improve the quality of care for America's 1.6 million nursing home residents, according to an article published in the March 17 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Paul R. Katz, M.D., of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, N.Y., and colleagues write that mainstream medicine is resistant to accepting the idea that nursing homes are a unique and legitimate medical practice, adding that medical staff working within them are treating patients with medically complex illnesses.

In addition to a change of mindset within the medical profession, both policymakers and the nursing home industry need to develop a better understanding of the connection between physician practice and quality, and also need to be assured of financial viability, the authors write. If nursing home medicine were to become a specialty in its own right, training must be sufficiently flexible to accommodate physicians both in mid-career and at the start, they note.

"Nursing home practice accommodates a flexible rounding schedule and requires little overhead, in keeping with younger physicians' demand for work-life balance," the authors write. "The specialty could be marketed as having these attractive features coupled with the opportunity to manage a diverse patient population with post-acute and long-term care needs in an easily navigable environment."

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