The author suggests the creation of expert-generalists to help provide the additional cost-effective access to care necessitated by increased insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Expert-generalists, a concept drawn from an extant Canadian model, would be a cohort of primary care physicians who obtain additional training in a subspecialty area, which would widen their practice portfolio and bring enhanced infrastructure to primary care settings. Expanding the reach of primary care into the realm of more advanced subspecialty practice could be a way to enhance both access to and quality of care in a cost-effective fashion, in part because the educational framework for additional training already exists. Trainees could opt for an extra year of training after traditional residency or return to training after years in practice. Properly trained, an expert-generalist would benefit both the quality of the patient experience and the bottom line by expertly triaging patients to determine who will truly benefit from specialty consultations, decreasing specialists' engagement with cases that do not require their higher-tier care. The author considers the merits of this proposal, as well as potential objections and implementation challenges. It is suggested that this model be adopted incrementally, using demonstration projects that could assess the impact of an expert-generalist initiative on the physician workforce and on patients' access to quality primary and specialty care.
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