On May 23, hundreds of family physicians will be on Capitol Hill to talk with legislators and congressional staff about issues that are important to family medicine. Of course, not everyone can make it to the annual Family Medicine Advocacy Summit, but you can still help spread the word about our specialty by participating in a National Day of Action the Academy will be promoting on that same day.
The goal is to reach at least 1 million people on social media and let them know that family physicians can help them not only get healthy, but stay healthy. Please join the National Day of Action effort to share our #StayWellSoon message. In the process, I hope we can give the public an understanding -- and appreciation -- of what it means to be a family physician.
It's important for patients, payers and policymakers to know that we care for everyone -- regardless of age and gender -- and we treat the whole patient, not just a disease or a single organ system. Family medicine is about counseling, prevention, diagnosis and the treatment of chronic conditions. We're not just here for coughs and colds.
I shared a related story with Zubin Damania, M.D., of Las Vegas, (perhaps better known as ZDogg, M.D.) last week during his Facebook Live show. I recently had a patient come see me for -- you guessed it -- a sore throat. But I didn't just treat his symptoms. We had a conversation that led to a discussion about snoring and sleep apnea, and it turned out that this patient was falling asleep while driving.
The point is that we listen to our patients, we care about their health goals, and the relationships we build with them over time allow us to see the big picture. Damania -- who has more than 600,000 social media followers -- was trained in internal medicine and is employed by a hospital, but he gets it and has become an unlikely champion of our specialty.
"It's so important that we realize the American health care system is so backward," he said during the May 10 live show, which was watched by more than 13,000 people and will be posted again on his Facebook page May 21. "We have so many specialists, and not as many family physicians and primary care (physicians). When you look at how we spend and how we manage sick care instead of health care, everything is backward. But we have an answer to fix it, and it's right in front of our face. It's family medicine."
We also discussed the fact that primary care and prevention represent less than 10 percent of U.S. health care spending, and increasing the investment in primary care could save millions. When you watch the video, you might notice that we didn't specify whether we meant millions of dollars or millions of lives. The answer is likely both.
Everyone, Damania said, needs a family physician to prevent illness and to stop illnesses from progressing to more serious conditions.
"Half the patients in the hospital didn't need to be there," he said. "It's not just an economic disaster, which it is; it's a moral and ethical human disaster. These people are suffering."
The answer, he said, is to transform our sick care model to a true health care system with primary care at its foundation.
Spread the word, and #StayWellSoon.
Wanda Filer, M.D., M.B.A., is Board Chair of the AAFP.