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Tuesday Feb 04, 2014

Our Specialty, Our Future: Make Your Voice Heard

In 2002, the family of family medicine organizations saw a need to devise a framework for propelling the specialty into the 21st century, so they launched the Future of Family Medicine (FFM) project.

During that project, the Family Medicine Working Party -- the AAFP, AAFP Foundation, American Board of Family Medicine, Association of Departments of Family Medicine, Association of Family Medicine Residency Directors, North American Primary Care Research Group and Society of Teachers of Family Medicine -- came together to create a report that included recommendations to guide the growth of the specialty.

Gerry Tolbert, M.D.

As a medical student at the time, I eagerly applauded the lofty goals of this endeavor, including a patient-centered team approach, elimination of barriers to access, electronic health records, a focus on quality and outcomes, and enhanced practice finances. Laudable goals, all, and focused more on the care of the patient than on economics.

The final report(www.annfammed.org) was published in 2004. Fast forward 10 years. Although many of the goals and objectives of the FFM project have become reality, we still have to work to maintain the relevance of family medicine as a specialty. To that end, the Working Party initiated Family Medicine for America's Health: Future of Family Medicine 2.0 (FFM 2.0) last fall as the next step in planning the specialty's course.

The newest goals set forth include defining the role of the 21st-century family physician (both in terms of scope and nature of practice) and ensuring family medicine can deliver the workforce to care for a growing -- and aging -- population.

As new physicians practicing in the current environment with innovation inspired and directly created by the original FFM project, we have a unique perspective that can impact the direction of FFM 2.0.

Choices about scope of practice, location, lifestyle and a whole host of other environmental concerns dictate most of our decisions, not to mention the patient education and patient care decisions we make every day.

Decisions about work/life balance influence our choice of scope, but the mission all family physicians share is superb patient care. This new FFM report will offer us a chance to define our roles as new physicians and practicing family doctors in the much larger scope of a health care system in flux.

The FFM 2.0 project also will serve to direct the efforts of the AAFP and the other family medicine organizations in areas of concern for members and will help dictate where resources will be allocated for things such as workforce research and reform.

Being in the trenches seeing patients each day, as well as on the cutting edge of technology and innovation, new physicians can offer a unique perspective. We have the advantage of growing up with computers and tech that some of our more veteran colleagues have had to adapt to over time. That's not to say we have it all figured out. FFM 2.0 also allows our more experienced colleagues to pass on the wisdom of years of practice, especially if we as new physicians ask the right questions to get the advice we need.

But in order to get the questions answered or the topics addressed, we have to ask and give input. If you think an issue impacts the specialty (or even subgroups of the specialty), or piques your curiosity, now is the time to take those questions to the highest levels of decision-making because the research and planning phase of the project is scheduled to be completed by April.

You can read more about the project, including the questions being addressed, on the AAFP website. I encourage you to share your thoughts on the specialty's future at futurefm@aafp.org.

Gerry Tolbert, M.D., is a board-certified family physician who practices in northern Kentucky. A lifelong technophile, his interests include the intersection of medicine and technology. You can follow him on Twitter @DrTolbert(twitter.com).

Posted at 11:13AM Feb 04, 2014 by Gerry Tolbert, M.D.

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