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TransforMED taps Fund official

Group says picking Abrams not conflict of interest


By Andis Robeznieks
Posted: February 2, 2009 - 12:01 am ET
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A Commonwealth Fund official has joined the board of managers of a for-profit arm of the American Academy of Family Physicians, but the Commonwealth Fund doesn’t see a conflict of interest between her role in researching the medical-home concept and the AAFP’s advocacy role in promoting it.

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Fund officials gave the go-ahead to the appointment of Melinda Abrams, assistant vice president and director of the Commonwealth Fund’s Patient-Centered Primary Care Initiative, to the board of AAFP subsidiary TransforMED only after making sure it followed its conflict of interest policy.

“The Commonwealth Fund does have a strong conflict of interest policy,” said spokeswoman Mary Mahon. “Staff is allowed to serve on boards (of other organizations) if the mission of the organization is closely aligned with our mission.”

Abrams said that TransforMED, which provides consulting services for practices seeking designation as a medical home, is prohibited by its parent organization from doing advocacy work. She also noted that she is declining a monthly stipend as well as reimbursement for travel expenses.

“The only conflict of interest would be if the Commonwealth Fund turned around and gave TransforMED a grant,” Abrams said, adding that she will not get involved in any TransforMED proposal made to the Commonwealth Fund.

“I see the mission of TransforMED as aligned with what the Commonwealth Fund is also trying to achieve,” Abrams said, explaining that these goals include reorganizing the practice and payment of primary care to achieve better outcomes more efficiently.

“From my perspective, TransforMED is an exciting organization because it fills a real important niche by strengthening primary care and offering technical assistance to practices,” Abrams said. “It strikes me as a stable organization that is a change agent. It’s an independent organization on the ground working

with practices and, because of its relationship with AAFP, it has the potential to disseminate the lessons learned about medical homes and inform the policy agenda.”

Abrams was speaking from Boise, Idaho, where she was making site visits in preparation of a five-year demonstration project the Commonwealth Fund is launching that will support 50 safety net clinics in four regions of the country in becoming medical homes. The project will also measure quality, patient experience and efficiency. Abrams said the list of regions has been narrowed down to seven. Project participants will be announced March 2.

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