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How Can Primary Care Be More Fulfilling?

Douglas Eby, MD, MPH, CPE, Vice President, Medical Services, Southcentral Foundation, Alaska Native Medical Center

Learning Objectives: At the end of this activity, you will be able to:

  • Discuss some potential reasons why there is a shortage of primary care physicians in health care today.
  • List at least three ways Alaska Native Medical Center is different from a traditional medical center. 
  • Explain how redesigning the physical space at Alaska Native Medical Center has helped improve a patient’s experience.
  • Discuss some outcomes produced by redesigning the care process at Alaska Native Medical Center.

Description: Primary care suffers from a lot of problems, says physician executive Douglas Eby. Clinicians often have to work too quickly to get to know their patients, which makes for unfulfilling work and an ineffective care model. At Anchorage-based Alaska Native Medical Center, however, things are different. The community and the organization’s leaders have developed a relationship-based model of care that has led to stunning clinical results — and made work much more rewarding for caregivers.

Alaska Native Medical Center provides primary, specialty, behavioral, and acute care, putting through about 400,000 outpatient visits a year. Learn more about the center.


Discussion Questions:
  1. Why do you think there is a shortage of primary care physicians in health care? If you’re a medical student, are you considering primary care? Why or why not?
  2. If you had the opportunity to redesign an entire health care system, where would you start? What’s the first change you would make?
  3. Dr. Eby says “primary care is the underpinning of the entire system.” Do you agree with that statement? Why or why not?
  4. How important do you think an organization’s physical space is to the care it provides?
  5. After hearing about the culture at Alaska Native Health Center, would you want to work there? Why or why not?  
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