Family Medicine for America's Health: Future of Family Medicine 2.0

In late August, the Family Medicine Working Party launched a follow-up initiative to the Future of Family Medicine Project that was conducted more than a decade ago. The goal of this effort – Family Medicine for America’s Health: Future of Family Medicine 2.0 – is to examine the challenges and opportunities facing family medicine today, and define a path forward in the context of a rapidly changing health care landscape.  

Background on the Future of Family Medicine Project

Twelve years ago, the seven national family medicine organizations initiated the Future of Family Medicine Project (FFM). The goal of the FFM project was to develop a strategy to transform and renew the discipline of family medicine to meet the needs of patients in a changing health care environment. At the time, it was clear that fundamental flaws in the fragmented U.S. health care system could be addressed through the integrative, generalist approach that is – and has always been – the hallmark of family medicine.

Extensive national research, conducted by independent firms along with five internal task forces, focused on the key issues facing family medicine. The project identified core values, a New Model of practice, and a process for development, research, education, partnership, and change with the greatest potential to transform the ability of family medicine to improve the health and health care of the nation. The New Model of practice established through the FFM project had the following characteristics:

  • a patient-centered team approach;
  • the elimination of barriers to access;
  • advanced information systems, including electronic health records;
  • redesigned, more functional offices;
  • a focus on quality and outcomes; and
  • enhanced practice finance.

The study concluded that family medicine needed to oversee the training of family physicians that are committed to excellence, believe in the core values of the discipline, able to provide family medicine’s basket of services within the New Model, and capable of adapting to varying patient needs and changing care technologies.

Family Medicine for America’s Health: Future of Family Medicine 2.0

Significant change has occurred in the decade-plus since the initiation of the Future of Family Medicine project. This period has been marked by active experimentation within the specialty, and much good work has been accomplished, most notably, the implementation of the New Model of care, now known as the Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH). 

Despite enormous progress – including the emergence of the PCMH as a central component of the landmark Affordable Care Act – many new issues and questions confront the specialty. This, combined with the significant changes underway in our health care system, has prompted the Family Medicine Working Party to revisit the FFM project. The goal of this new effort is to look through today’s lens at the challenges and opportunities currently facing family medicine, in order to: 

  • define the role of the 21st century family physician (key attributes, practice scope, role within the health care system); and
  • ensure family medicine can deliver the workforce to perform this role for the U.S. public (via medical school/residency training and re-engaging existing family physicians, etc.).

As part of this process, the Family Medicine Working Party will consider the following questions:

What are the core attributes of family medicine today, in the context of an apparent decline in the scope of services and clinical care provided by many family physicians?

How will family medicine respond to the challenges of an evolving health system? The significant changes in health care include:

  • a move from the traditional “practice owner” model to one of physicians as employees of larger health systems;
  • greater system integration and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs);
  • health information technology, meaningful use and advances in the use of technology for care coordination;
  • the expansion of scope of practice by many non-physician health care providers;
  • evolving models of payment reform; and
  • physician performance measurement and reporting.

Is there a need for curricular reform for medical school education and residency training (potentially moving from three to four years of residency training)?

How do we best communicate to relevant stakeholders the value and benefits of family medicine – the important role family physicians play in the evolving U.S. health care system?

Project Sponsors and Leaders

Similar to the earlier FFM Project, Family Medicine for America’s Health: Future of Family Medicine 2.0 is an effort of the Family Medicine Working Party. The seven leadership organizations within the specialty of family medicine include:

  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation
  • American Board of Family Medicine
  • Association of Departments of Family Medicine
  • Association of Family Medicine Residency Directors
  • North American Primary Care Research Group
  • Society of Teachers of Family Medicine

Working Party members from each of the organizations have designated representatives to a Steering Committee and Core Team, who will take the lead in driving the work of the project. 

Two national firms have been selected to collaborate and assist with the project. We have retained CFAR to lead the strategic planning initiative. CFAR is a management consulting firm specializing in strategy and organizational development. CFAR was spun out of the Wharton School in 1987 and has academic roots in business and the social sciences. APCO Worldwide will lead communications and brand development. APCO is a public relations firm with deep expertise in health care, health policy, and social marketing. 

Timeline and Outcomes

We anticipate the research and planning phase of the project to be completed by April 2014, at which point we plan to move quickly to implementation of:

1. An action-oriented strategic plan with a five-year timeline, addressing the issues most critical to family medicine and providing a role for the seven family medicine organizations. 

2. A family medicine communications platform developed through research and creative testing, that aligns with stakeholders’ expectations, perceptions and emotional attachments, along with a plan to communicate the value and benefits of family medicine.

We Want to Hear From You

The success of this project relies on input from the broad community of family physicians, like you, who are on the front lines of care, and whose unique experiences will inform and direct the process. The project will also include extensive research and outreach to the specialty and our key stakeholders including teachers, medical students, residents, and researchers. 

The team will provide regular monthly updates on progress of the effort. And we invite you to share thoughts or insights with the Working Party, Core Team, or Steering Committee via the following email address: FutureFM@aafp.org.

Stay Informed!

We want to hear from you:

Email: FutureFM@aafp.org