Dr. Neil Calman Accepts 2014 Primary Care Excellence Award from PCDC

June 18, 2014

New York, NY (June 12, 2014) – Dr. Neil Calman, the co-founder, president and CEO of the Institute for Family Health, articulated a vision for the future of primary care service delivery in New York on Monday night as he accepted an award from the Primary Care Development Corporation during their annual Spring gala. The event, which marked the 20th Anniversary of PCDC’s efforts to expand primary care infrastructure in New York and beyond, was attended by over 600 industry leaders. Dr. Calman’s call to dramatically re-orient the health care system towards prevention-focused care was echoed by his fellow honorees, Dr. Arthur Klein of the Mount Sinai Health System and Michael Rosenblut of Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation.

“This is the moment of truth for healthcare in the United States,” said Dr. Calman. “The next few years are going to really tell whether we can do this or not. From the first moment somebody enters a community health center or a doctor’s office, through the most serious illness that they may have or through the long term care that they might need – wherever they are in the healthcare system, the one thing we always have to do is work together. This is where healthcare is going–and that is a great place.”

Dr. Calman went on to describe the large evidence base that has emerged in recent years indicating that the so-called “social determinants of health” – the environmental and policy environments in which people live, learn, work, play and worship – have a greater impact on human health than medical care services. Traditionally, said Dr. Calman, these factors, which include housing, jobs, education and social capital, have been considered outside the purview of healthcare institutions. But public health and health care researchers have produced compelling evidence that if these factors are not addressed, health care institutions will fail in their ongoing efforts to curb the skyrocketing cost of health care in the United States.

“We will either have to deliver, or partner with organizations that help people with housing, help people with their economic situation, help people with their education and help people so that their living situation is personally safe and their communities are safe,” said Dr. Calman. “If we don’t include this in what we consider ‘part of health care,’ we will fail in being able to reduce health care costs.”

“This is possibly the highest risk thing we have ever done,” he continued. “The country is calling our bluff to see if we can really make this happen. Can we really stabilize or reduce costs? Can we really work together in a less competitive and more cooperative manner to build the healthcare system that our country needs? Will we be able to move from an institutionally-centric model – which is what we have had – that focuses on illness, and focuses on the quantity of care that we deliver, to a system that is truly prevention-oriented – that works with new financing mechanisms to incentivize providers to keep folks healthy and to be able to deliver lower cost care that produces the same, or even better, results for people? Will we be able to engage patients in their own healthcare so we can allow them to make choices about their own clinical decisions? When we do, people usually choose less aggressive treatments … and oftentimes choose things that have better outcomes. This is what we are facing right now. That challenge is before us today — and I hope that we can meet it.”

“What is not clear to me is whether we are going to be able to provide access to all people through this health reform that we are in the beginning of,” said Dr. Calman. “That we are going to be able to eliminate health disparities – which is the number one plague we face in our healthcare system. It is not clear whether we will be able to drive health outcomes that reduce the premature death and disability that people of color still experience in our society. That, to me, is a huge challenge that is part of health reform.”

The Institute for Family Health is a federally qualified health center network that operates 27 practices in New York State serving more than 90,000 patients annually. Services are available to people of all ages, regardless of ability to pay.