President's Message

You Told Us How the AAFP Is Doing, and We're Listening

September 21, 2017 01:08 pm Michael Munger, M.D.

Now that the excitement of the 2017 Congress of Delegates and the Family Medicine Experience (FMX) is over, I want to take this opportunity to look forward. And in looking forward, I want you to know that your feedback matters.

Michael Munger, M.D.

For more than 20 years, the AAFP has gauged member satisfaction through an annual survey. We ask family physicians what we're doing well and where we can improve, and we consider that feedback when we are developing products and services, advocating for family medicine with payers and policymakers, and more.

With a diverse group of physicians working in an array of practice settings scattered across nearly 4 million square miles, it's a challenge -- especially in these contentious times -- to please everyone. Members sometimes tell us they feel like they aren't being heard, so we made a significant change in this year's Member Satisfaction Survey. Instead of sending it to only a random sample of members, as in years past, we emailed it to every active member (roughly 70,000 family physicians). Then we asked you to respond to the survey through multiple channels, including email, AAFP News and social media.

There are other ways to engage with the Academy, too. We read your comments on AAFP News stories and blogs and in our member interest group discussions. Members, of course, are the driving force behind our AAFP commissions and our three policy development meetings -- the National Conference of Constituency Leaders, the National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students, and the Congress of Delegates. We are listening.

Now on to the annual member satisfaction survey, which is especially important in driving the AAFP's agenda on behalf of our members.

I was gratified to see that 94 percent of respondents said they plan to renew their memberships. So what are we doing right?

We asked what products and services you deemed most valuable, and CME reporting/recording (96 percent) and live and self-study CME courses (90 percent) both scored high marks. American Family Physician (93 percent) and aafp.org (91 percent) also were valued highly. The usefulness of our clinical practice guidelines was close behind at 85 percent.

Members also said we were doing a good job of keeping you informed. Eighty-six percent of respondents said the Academy is a trusted source of information about family medicine, 81 percent said the number of emails received from the Academy in an average month was appropriate, and 74 percent agreed that we communicate well with members. Eighty-five percent said that AAFP staff was responsive to member requests or questions.

We also asked what members thought the top priorities of the AAFP should be. Your answers again highlighted the diverse needs and opinions of membership that I've also heard from family physicians across the country. Of more than a dozen issues that members named, the top four were reducing regulatory burden, supporting affordable health care for all, increasing family physician payment and helping FPs maintain board certification. All four of these issues already align with work the Academy is pursuing.

In my practice, I see how the unnecessary administrative burden we grapple with gets in the way of meaningful patient care, and so do you. Nearly 60 percent of respondents named reducing administrative burden as one of the top three priorities for the AAFP. We know that for every hour you provide direct patient care, you spend nearly two additional hours on administrative work(annals.org). This absurd reality has been reflected in our advocacy efforts.

We are ramping up those efforts with public and private payers -- and with Congress and the Administration -- to fight on your behalf to try and reduce this burden that does not lead to better care. For example, in the first five months of this year alone, the AAFP sent five letters to the Trump administration tackling the burdens that get in the way of patient care, such as prior authorizations and excessive documentation.

The AAFP has supported the concept of health care coverage for all for nearly three decades, and we continue to advocate for this important goal on behalf of our patients.

Payment remains near the top of the Academy's advocacy agenda. The Academy is developing payment policies that are less dependent on fee-for-service and reflect the continuous and comprehensive nature of primary care -- payment models that should pay differently and better for the work that you do every day. We must align payment to support the delivery of care. We continue to engage with payers, both public and private, and press Congress to support not only greater access to primary care but greater long-term investment in primary care.

Leadership from the AAFP and the American Board of Family Medicine meet twice a year, and AAFP officers have conveyed the significant concerns of members regarding the time and expense of certification. During the recent Congress of Delegates, it was announced that the AAFP has formed a task force(4 page PDF) that will, among other things, consider "alternative options for ongoing certification in family medicine" and "criteria by which members and others can evaluate specialty certifying boards."

Another issue that received considerable attention was the need for resources to promote physician well-being and prevent burnout. At the recent FMX, the AAFP launched the Physician Health First initiative. This includes a new web portal and free member resources.

The survey also helped identify areas where we can do better. For example, the Academy has some excellent resources that are being underutilized. We need to make sure members know of these offerings and the value they represent.

The AAFP has nearly three dozen member interest groups covering a wide range of clinical topics, practice settings and more. But only 44 percent of respondents are participating in these groups, which provide forums for AAFP members with shared professional interests.

The AAFP has a wealth of practice resources, many of which are free. Only 39 percent of respondents have accessed our MACRA resources, and less than a third said they had used the Academy's other practice management resources.  

FMX brought together thousands of family physicians from across the country to network with their peers and to receive outstanding CME. Unfortunately, less than 40 percent of respondents said they have attended FMX. Did you know that this annual event allows you to earn a year's worth of CME (26.75 live credits and 25 enduring credits during the next two years with FMX On Demand(fmx.ondemand.org))? 

In a few months, the AAFP will be asking for your opinion again in our 2018 Member Satisfaction Survey, so be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to make your voice heard. I bring the Board the concerns you share with me at meetings around the country, and it shapes the work we do on behalf of our specialty. Your survey responses add to that feedback -- and can only help strengthen family medicine.