East Pierce Family Medicine trains doctors to meet insurance demand

of the HeraldDecember 25, 2013 

Health care coverage will begin Jan. 1 for the 179,000 Washington state residents who have enrolled in a plan through Washington Healthplanfinder, the state’s benefit exchange designed to help residents meet requirements under the Affordable Care Act.

Many Pierce County residents who have obtained coverage will be looking for primary-care providers for themselves or their family members.

Dr. Bill Kriegsman, program director at East Pierce Family Medicine on the campus of MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup, can help shed some light on how health care systems are preparing for the influx of new patients:

Puyallup Herald: What is the mission of the East Pierce Family Medicine residency program?

Bill Kriegsman: The mission is to improve access for people to get primary care. We have done this by opening a new family medicine clinic in Puyallup and by training resident physicians, some of whom will be remaining in the area after they graduate. Our clinic opened in 2011, and our first group of residents started practicing in July 2012.

PH: Is there an intent for this residency program to train doctors to fill the demand that the health care reform will create starting Jan. 1?

BK: Our program was started because the executives at Good Samaritan Hospital and MultiCare saw a shortage of physicians and developed one way to improve the situation.

Our residency will not be able to satisfy the tremendous need for primary care, but we are one of the key elements. With the Affordable Care Act, more people will be insured. This is great for those who previously lacked health care coverage but will require significant growth and better efficiency in how we deliver health care.

PH: What is a resident, and how many residents will serve patients in the program?

BK: Residents are physicians who have completed four years of medical school and are training in a specialty, like pediatrics, surgery or family medicine. After their four years of medical school, our residents spend an additional three years working with board-certified physicians in east Pierce County to gain experience. At the end of their three years, they take a set of exams which will enable them to become board certified. Each class has six residents, so, by next year, we will have 18 residents total (six in each class).

PH: Is the hope that residents will stay in the area after they leave the program?

BK: We would love to have our graduates remain in the area. There is no obligation, so the residents may go wherever their families, jobs and personal needs take them, but we hope that their three years of residency in Puyallup will provide them with a good experience and an interest in staying here.

PH: What specific areas of medicine are residents trained in?

BK: East Pierce Family Medicine is accredited to train all physicians, both MDs and DOs, to become family physicians. Specifically, we are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and by the American Osteopathic Association. Both groups expressed their confidence in us by granting us the maximum accreditation length allowed.

Our residents are trained to do the full spectrum of family medicine. They work both in the hospital and in the clinic. They deliver babies, take care of kids and adults and provide care to elders.

They are trained by family physicians, surgeons, internists, pediatricians, obstetricians and many other physicians in our community. With the growth of MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital, all of their specialty training can be provided right here in Puyallup.

Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at andrew.fickes@puyallupherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.

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