This is the third time I have been given the privilege of writing the first AAFP Leader Voices Blog post of a new year. This post is significant to me because it heralds the beginning of a new decade. This third decade of the 21st century should inspire us to look toward a new future with renewed hope of achieving health care for all Americans based on foundational primary care principles of care.
While reflecting on the major events of the past decade, I happened to see children happily darting about on a neighborhood playground. The scene made me recall when I was a child scampering about the playground at Longfellow Elementary in Dayton, Ohio. It was on that little playground that my friends and I gathered, without sports equipment or digital gadgets, to create fun using only our imaginations. Without any organized agreement, groups of kids participated in playground games. My favorites were hide-and-seek; duck, duck, goose; and tag. While participating in these games I unconsciously learned the skill of where I should go seek the hiders first, how to select the individual I wanted to be the "goose" that chased me and how to catch the kid I wanted to tag. The primary objective of each game was to determine who would be "it."
Fast forward to 2020. As adults, we consciously or unconsciously refined the skills we learned on the playground to seek affiliations with organizations that provide added value to our lives. In my November blog post, I attempted to focus readers' attention on the social value provided by family medicine. So, let's begin the new year by focusing on the intrinsic value AAFP membership provides family physicians.
AAFP members seek a tangible return on their investment in membership, but many are unaware of some of the benefits that come with that membership in the form of free and discounted services and resources. We annually offer members more than $4,000 worth of savings in products and services. For example, family physicians seeking information about improved payment strategies can find it by participating in AAFP-sponsored, members-only webcasts on annual wellness visits, chronic care management or advance care planning.
For family physicians interested in direct primary care, members can access the assets in our DPC Toolkit for free or at reduced cost.
Members seeking lifelong learning tools need look no further than our 1,360 board review questions, worth up to 34 CME Prescribed credits. A selection of other free CME activities in various formats also is available to members.
AAFP member benefits are not selected at random. We create valuable products and services using feedback from members -- including information collected in our annual Member Satisfaction survey -- coupled with our four strategic objectives of
In addition to the Academy's prodigious collection of CME opportunities, AAFP members have ready access to a wide array of other exclusive services and programs, including members-only discounts and savings on Member Advantage products. One of our premier services is AAFP Primary +, which allows you to report CME, log procedures and keep up with professional requirements. However, according to our 2019 Member Satisfaction survey, only about half of respondents were aware of this tool's Requirements Planner (54%) or its Procedure Tracker (49%).
Have a question about tools and resources that can smooth office workflow and maximize your health care team's performance? Staff members with subject matter expertise are on hand to assist members through our Practice Management Help Desk.
The AAFP is dedicated to helping family physicians help the communities we serve. This means tagging as many sources as possible with family medicine messaging. By doing so, we demonstrate the intrinsic social value of family medicine. But first we must increase our own awareness of what the Academy is doing on our behalf.
Our 2019 Member Satisfaction survey indicated that at least one in five members was not aware of our advocacy efforts with payers and major employers to improve rural health and reduce payer administrative burden for members. About a quarter or more were not aware of our resources for population health or health equity. Even our award-winning patient education and public health resources like the consumer website Familydoctor.org, which is jointly sponsored by the AAFP and the AAFP Foundation, may go unnoticed by some members.
The Academy continues to aggressively advocate for our members. For example, from April to June 2019, the AAFP sent 14 letters to government agencies on topics that included physician payment, health information technology and public health. We sent Congress 15 letters regarding drug pricing, chronic pain management and funding for primary care research initiatives by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. We also sent six letters concerning nominations of family physicians to federal committees such as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. During the Family Medicine Advocacy Summit in May, our members made more than 200 visits to members of Congress and congressional staff. This is family medicine in action!
The AAFP also provides the family physician perspective to the media. During the same April to June period, our public relations staff worked with reporters from Better Homes and Gardens, CNN, Consumer Reports, Healthgrades, Health Magazine, Huffington Post, Medical Economics, Medscape, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and many more. The AAFP speaks out on a variety of issues that impact our day-to-day medical practice, including malpractice, vaccine hesitancy, value-based payment, prior authorization, scope of practice and physician burnout. It also is necessary to speak out about social issues impacting the lives of our patients, such as maternal mortality, opioid misuse disorder, OTC medications, and men's and women's health.
Our patients are seeking value in the health care delivery system just as vigorously as our members are seeking value in their AAFP membership investment. This is not the time to give up the pursuit and walk away in frustration. We must increase our own awareness of the value we can provide to society so we can better increase the value that the society we serve sees in us. This means striking a delicate balance between supporting an Academy that provides practical professional resources to its members and advocating for the social imperatives our patients will demand from the medical professionals they choose to care for them.
I challenge each of you to use your 20/20 vision to see beyond the here and now. The year 2020 is more than just a new year -- it is a new beginning. Watching the game of life being played while sitting on the edge of the playground is not an option we can afford. The U.S. population is seeking bold new heroes to achieve the elusive quadruple aim of health care.
I see family medicine hiding in plain sight with all the essential resources, education and services necessary to care for a nation. The AAFP wants patients to choose you.
Tag, you're it.
Wishing you a joyful, healthy and prosperous new decade!
Gary LeRoy, M.D., is the president of the AAFP.