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

In late August 2013, 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 – was to examine the challenges and opportunities facing family medicine, and define a path forward in the context of a rapidly changing health care landscape.

Significant change had occurred in the decade-plus since the initiation of the Future of Family Medicine project. The period had been marked by active experimentation within the specialty, and much good work had been accomplished, most notably, the implementation of the New Model of practice, 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 confronted the specialty. This, combined with the significant changes underway in the U.S. health care system, prompted the Family Medicine Working Party to revisit the FFM project. The goal of this new effort: 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 considered 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 was an effort of the Family Medicine Working Party. The 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
  • American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians
  • Association of Departments of Family Medicine
  • Association of Family Medicine Residency Directors
  • North American Primary Care Research Group
  • Society of Teachers of Family Medicine

Two national firms were selected to collaborate and assist with the project – one with expertise in communications and brand development; the other with expertise in strategic planning.

By June 2014, the research and planning phase of the project had been completed and all eight organizations had approved:

  • a three-year 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; and
  • an action-oriented strategic plan with a five-year timeline, addressing the issues most critical to family medicine and providing a role for the eight family medicine organizations.

To move the project forward, the eight organizations formed a Limited Liability Company, Family Medicine for America’s Health LLC, and pledged a total of $20,715,000 over five years to support implementation. Each of the sponsoring organizations also appointed one individual to serve on the Board of Directors. Since initially being formed, the Board has expanded to add five additional members – an executive from AAFP’s constituent chapters, a physician in independent practice, a new physician, a patient advocate, and a President/Board Chair.

The latest information on the progress of the effort can be found at Family Medicine for America’s Health(fmahealth.org)