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Monday Mar 25, 2013

Mainstream Media Can Help Us Share Our Stories

The life of an AAFP officer is never dull. We have an amazing staff that ensures our leaders are able to make it to all kinds of media and advocacy opportunities.

For example, I recently represented the Academy at the Association of Health Care Journalists annual convention in Boston. This was a dynamic conference that brought together more than 700 journalists from all over the country to explore pertinent topics, as well as to network and develop their skills. 

I participated in a panel about improving patient outcomes and decreasing costs with Nancy Shendell-Falik, R.N., M.A., chief nursing officer and senior vice president of patient care services at Tufts Medical Center, and Donald Berwick, M.D., former head of CMS. (I also talked to several reporters one-on-one after the panel.)

The audience was composed of people who were experts in communication and in tune with social media. In fact, before our panel was completed, one person tweeted about wanting a photo with Dr. Berwick, while someone else tweeted that they wanted a photo with the "guy with the awesome beard!"

This kind of forum is important in many ways. It allows a formal presentation of our emphasis on developing physician-led, team-based care, as well as clarification that a patient-centered medical home (PCMH) is best defined by its community.

Here's the example I shared. Long before the PCMH was even an acronym, I had a small practice in Trenton, Ga. It had two nurses, a lab person, a front office person and me. However, that community also had two chiropractors, a physical therapy office, a home health agency, one pharmacy, the health department and emergency medical services. Together, we were our patients' medical home. We all took care of our patients and ensured that we coordinated care in our town. If a patient needed hospitalization, then we worked together to create that transition.

This concrete example of what creates a medical home is an important message to get out because it is easy for people to misunderstand or misrepresent some of these important buzz words and terms. 

It also is important to realize what a critical role journalists play in sharing our message. At this meeting, I recognized that reporters and journalists are often community members who are looking at ways to help the citizens of their cities or towns get better health care. These are not folks quick to emphasize partisan talking points. They truly are interested in hearing perspectives and finding the middle ground.

There were many experienced journalists present at the meeting, but there also were a remarkable number of reporters who were new to covering health care. The connections that I made will allow me to continue to talk with people who are going to take our message back to the grassroots level, which is where change truly happens.

I challenged all of the people I talked with to truly look for the positives. These may not be the most exciting stories, but they are stories that need to be told for us to have positive change.  Find the bright spots. Identify and write about those family physicians(www.parade.com)  and practices that are truly working to make things better on the front lines. The more we share our stories, the better we all work together in the larger sense to create a seamless patient-centered medical home.

I challenge each of you to tell your story. Find a reporter in your area who is looking for a connection and wants to make a difference. Together, we can bring about transformation.

Reid Blackwelder, M.D., is president-elect of the AAFP.

Posted at 11:21AM Mar 25, 2013 by Reid Blackwelder, M.D.

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