Conference report: NAPCRG (North American Primary Care Research Group) Annual Meeting 2014

42nd NAPCRG Annual Meeting, November 21-25 2014, New York

At times, conferences feel rather like you’re caught up in the centre of a whirlwind, as papers, posters, coffee, snatches of conversations, and venue maps swirl around you in a blur for day after day. Conferences with 1,000+ delegates in a vast hotel complex right in the centre of New York City have the potential to be particularly whirlwind-like. So congratulations must go to the organisers of NAPCRG this year for making such a vast and potentially confusing enterprise eminently human and manageable.

If you weren’t there, here is my take on the stand-out moments.

First, a special nod to Victor Montori for a barnstorming opening keynote – rabble rousing stuff on the need for minimally disruptive medicine. Rattling through his and others’ work on how to better support patients with chronic disease and multimorbidity to live their lives, it is clear his commitment to develop this field is deep, and deeply personal. He left with a rallying cry for us to enable patients’ to pursue their goals whilst minimising the footprint of health care on their lives (although see here for Martin Roland’s take on what more we need to do).

The poster sessions were a revelation. Many UK conferences have switched to e-posters, often presented as three-minute “mini talks”. NAPCRG were having none of this. Old school it was, thank you very much. There were boards, drawing pins, posters of all sizes, and the usual bits of A4 paper marooned in a sea of blank board (suggesting tragic accidents for the actual posters (or would-be presenters) en route to the conference). There were four separate poster sessions, each one stand-alone with no competing conference sessions. As a result, people went in droves, talked, engaged and really benefitted. It was great, for example, to have a long chat to Dr Christina Hagger from PHCRIS in Australia about how we can engage primary care researchers in knowledge exchange. From an entirely selfish perspective (one of our current research programmes is concerned with why ethnic minorities report more negative experiences of primary care), I was also really pleased to see lots of work in progress around cross-cultural communication, the use of interpreters in consultations, and in PhD work by Farina Kokab from the University of Birmingham an investigation of social capital in relation to cardiovascular health in Pakistani migrants in the UK.

Parallel sessions were, it is fair to say, everywhere. At one point I spent almost half an hour trying to work out which of the 14 concurrent sessions I should go to. If you want to get a glimpse of the breadth of research in primary care at the moment, just looking at the programme was pretty revelatory. Workshops throughout the conference were also well attended and lively. I particularly enjoyed the mixed methods workshop run by Michael Fetters, and the whistlestop tour of Normalisation Process Theory by Kate O’Donnell, Frances Mair and Susan Browne from Glasgow, and Anne MacFarlane from Limerick. The group exercise of applying concepts of coherence, cognitive participation, collective action and reflexive monitoring to our decision to come to NAPCRG was hilarious (and a brilliant way to get us to understand the approach): who would have guessed the challenges we had all faced in making it to the meeting…

Across the conference, topics which stood out to me as being of particular current concern included multi-morbidity, involving patients in research and service development, electronic medical records, data linkage, and issues around language, communication and minority ethnic communities. Health systems are, of course, very different across the US and the international settings of many delegates, but the primary care research community was united about the need to make progress across these key strands of work. However, the lack of “big stuff” also struck me. Many projects are small-scale, local, and repetitive. We could do with some more ambition, more big questions, more methodological rigour, and more joined-up thinking. We all know how important primary care is, and how under pressure it is across all settings – there are important questions out there we can make a huge contribution to, and NAPCRG was great for crystallising some of these. All in all, it was a great meeting – and I even (sort of) got used to the 7am breakfast meetings: I’m happy to get out of bed for cake, anytime.

NEXT YEAR: You might have missed Times Square, but fear not – 2015 sees NAPCRG decamp to Cancun in Mexico. The Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Resort & Spa, in fact. Sounds rather nice. Maybe see you there.


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