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Tuesday Aug 06, 2019

Full Steam Ahead on Academy's Health IT Innovation Project

In this Leader Voices Blog post, AAFP Board Chair Michael Munger, M.D., offers an update on an Academy initiative that aims to develop health IT tools that are more useful and less burdensome than current products.


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Posted at 03:32PM Aug 06, 2019 by Michael Munger, M.D. | Comments [0]

Tuesday Jul 09, 2019

New AAFP Initiative Addresses Rural Health Care Crisis

Rural America is suffering from a health care crisis, a product of inadequate funding, economic downturn and lack of an appropriate health care workforce. In response, the AAFP is launching an Academy-wide effort to improve health care in rural communities. In this Leader Voices Blog post, AAFP President John Cullen, M.D., gives more details about the initiative.


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Posted at 02:10PM Jul 09, 2019 by John Cullen, M.D. | Comments [0]

Wednesday Jun 05, 2019

FPs Steer the AAFP With Plenty of Ways to Influence Course

In this Leader Voices Blog post, AAFP President John Cullen, M.D., explains how AAFP policy is set by members who represent a wide scope of opinions about the best ways to advance family medicine.


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Posted at 01:21PM Jun 05, 2019 by John Cullen, M.D. | Comments [0]

Wednesday Apr 17, 2019

Make Your Voice Heard; Take the Member Survey

The AAFP Member Satisfaction Survey plays a key role in directing Academy resources to meet family physicians' needs. AAFP President-elect Gary LeRoy, M.D., urges members to take advantage of this opportunity to make their voices heard.


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Posted at 09:54AM Apr 17, 2019 by Gary LeRoy, M.D. | Comments [0]

Tuesday Apr 17, 2018

Make Our Voices Heard on Continuing Board Certification

AAFP President Michael Munger, M.D., provided comments at a recent hearing about continuing board certification. In this Leader Voices Blog post, he urges family physicians to weigh in via a survey from the American Board of Medical Specialties.


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Posted at 03:02PM Apr 17, 2018 by Michael Munger, M.D. | Comments [0]

Tuesday Jun 27, 2017

Reflecting on 70 Years of Leadership and Innovation

Seventy years ago this month, general practitioners from across the United States joined forces to form a national organization that eventually became the AAFP.


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Posted at 02:52PM Jun 27, 2017 by John Meigs, M.D. | Comments [0]

Friday Nov 18, 2016

Bare Necessity: Communication Is Critical in a Crisis

Wildlife lessons learned since a move to the small frontier community of Valdez, Alaska, have taught John Cullen, M.D., that communication is the key to survival. Brown bears and grizzlies have plenty to say about techniques for getting through life's difficulties to those who know how to listen.


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Posted at 09:45AM Nov 18, 2016 by John Cullen, M.D. | Comments [0]

Wednesday Sep 21, 2016

Encouragement Is Key to Developing Physician Leaders

Newly installed AAFP President John Meigs, M.D., reflects on his path to leadership and urges others not only to join him, but to mentor and encourage others to follow.


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Posted at 09:12AM Sep 21, 2016 by John Meigs, M.D. | Comments [0]

Thursday May 26, 2016

We're Getting the Media to Spread the Word About Family Medicine

We've posted in this blog before about the importance of working with the media to share public health messages and to educate the public and policymakers about complex health issues. We have shared stories about what Academy leaders are doing nationally while also encouraging members to work with the media at the local level.

Last year, the AAFP decided to take an in-depth look at our media outreach and get a professional assessment of how we're doing. The results, which were presented to the Academy's Board of Directors this month, are encouraging.

The AAFP contracted with GYMR, a Washington, D.C.,-based communications firm that specializes in health care and social issues, to perform a yearlong analysis of media coverage of the AAFP and a number of its peer organizations: the AMA, American College of Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and American Osteopathic Association (AOA).

The intent of the analysis was to determine how well the AAFP was performing in 26 strategic, targeted media outlets, including large daily newspapers (such as the Los Angeles Times), national publications (such as USA Today), wire services (such as the Associated Press), trade media (such as Medical Economics) and policy outlets (such as Politico). We also wanted to know how well our message was being relayed and how our coverage compared to that of our peers.

The Academy's public relations staff receives media requests and also pitches story ideas to contacts. The result is that the AAFP is mentioned in hundreds of media outlets each month. Looking at only the 26 targeted outlets, in fact, the AAFP is a constant presence, with an average of 38 mentions a month -- 23.5 in health care trade publications, 11 in national media outlets and 3.4 in policy-related outlets.

GYMR also analyzed numbers by mission area. Nearly a third of the articles that mentioned the AAFP dealt with practice advancement. That's good news, because it's critical for policymakers to know how issues such as payment, regulations and administrative burdens affect physicians and their patients.

Twenty-eight percent of the articles that mentioned the Academy had to do with health of the public issues, such as electronic cigarettes and breastfeeding. AAP also did well in this area because of the interest in children's health care issues. We can work to educate the media about the fact that family physicians care for the entire spectrum of age groups, and family physicians care for millions of children, particularly in rural and underserved areas.

To break it down a different way, a quarter of the education and a third of advocacy articles in the analysis mentioned the AAFP. There are many more stories here we can tell, including the fact that our nation's graduate medical education system is not producing an adequate number of primary care physicians.

Interestingly, the AAFP accounted for 25 percent of all quotes in the hundreds of stories that were considered, more than any other primary care group. Academy representatives were quoted in 63 percent of the stories that mentioned the AAFP, nearly double the rate of the AAP and far more than the AMA and AOA.

The analysis also looked at who should be quoted. Some health care organizations use a staff member as a spokesperson. On the other hand, the president is the official spokesperson of the AAFP. One reason the Academy is frequently quoted is because each year, the organization has a new person who can share fresh stories and practice perspectives with reporters. Rather than a policy wonk sitting behind a desk, we have practicing family physicians talking about how important issues affect us, our patients and our colleagues. On an almost daily basis, I'm telling reporters stories that start with, "I have a patient who …"

Family physicians have a unique ability to tell stories and connect issues to patients. We can humanize important health messages and make them easier for the public to understand. Ultimately, we are getting the right messages to the right people on behalf of family medicine.

You can join us by sharing stories in your own community, whether it be at the Rotary Club, a Boy Scout meeting or with your local newspaper. We can help the public understand the importance of issues such as immunizations by speaking out. In the process, we expand public awareness of family medicine, who we are, what we do and what we offer the health care system.

Wanda Filer, M.D., M.B.A., is president of the AAFP.


Posted at 12:51PM May 26, 2016 by Wanda Filer, M.D. | Comments [0]

Wednesday May 18, 2016

Can Mindfulness Meditation Deliver Us From Burnout?

What do you do for fun? This is an important question I have started to ask patients so I can get to know them better and assess whether they find joy in their lives. I appreciate that the absence of joy can be a significant contributor to absence of personal health and sense of wellness.

I often wonder if we should be asking our physician colleagues the same question. A recent survey of nearly 36,000 physicians found that 63 percent of family physicians suffer from at least one symptom of burnout, an increase of 12 percent in just three years.

Not surprisingly, the same survey, which was published in December in Mayo Clinic Proceedings(www.mayoclinicproceedings.org), found that physician satisfaction with work-life balance was falling nearly as fast as burnout was rising. The percentage of family physicians who were satisfied with their work-life balance in this survey was roughly 35 percent, which was down from 50 percent in the previous study done three years earlier.

Although the AAFP, its constituent chapters and other physician organizations are working hard to address the many drivers of burnout that exist in our external environment -- including electronic health records, reimbursement and administrative burden -- it also is important that we, as physicians, ask ourselves what else we can do to survive and thrive amidst the current chaos.

A growing body of evidence points to mindfulness meditation and practicing the principles of mindfulness-based stress reduction(www.webmd.com) as a key answer to this important question.

Back in 2013, there already was ample evidence that mindfulness meditation could help people reduce stress when researchers at Carnegie Mellon University used MRI scans to show that the process, after just eight weeks, appeared to shrink the amygdala and thicken the prefrontal cortex(journals.plos.org). In other words, participants' connection to their fight-or-flight response got weaker as their attention and concentration improved. Researchers reported that the scale of these changes correlated with the amount of time spent on meditation.

Earlier this year, a research team that included the authors of that 2013 study found that mindfulness meditation stimulated areas of the brain that may help control emotional reaction and attention and decreased blood levels of interleukin-6, which is associated with inflammatory disease risk, meaning the process may protect participants' from emotional distress and decrease inflammation(www.biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com).

Yet another study published last fall in the Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions(journals.lww.com) found that participants' heart rate, blood pressure and Maslach Burnout Inventory scores improved after eight weeks of mindfulness meditation, and results continued during a 10-month followup period with low attrition and high compliance rates.

Not surprisingly, I'm hearing more and more about mindfulness wherever I go. Daniel Friedland, M.D.(supersmarthealth.com) recently gave a presentation on how mindfulness can play a role in leadership during the AAFP's Annual Leadership Conference. And Renee Crichlow, M.D., an assistant professor in the department of family medicine and community health at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, recently presented the evidence for using mindfulness meditation to prevent burnout at the Minnesota AFP's annual meeting.

Skeptics might be reluctant to invest time on something they aren't sure about, and maybe you aren't comfortable with the idea of sitting in the lotus position and getting in touch with yourself. The good news is there are plenty of free resources to help you get started(itunes.apple.com) and you can practice mindfulness meditation in whatever position is comfortable for you in just few minutes a day.

As this short video on the basics of meditation from Happifyhealth.com says, meditation is simple, secular, scientifically validated exercise for your brain(www.youtube.com). Another short YouTube video from Happify explains why mindfulness is a powerful tool for your well-being(www.youtube.com).

If meditation isn't for you, there are other options to reduce stress and build resiliency. A Minnesota community that lost two physicians in a short time period -- including one to suicide -- started a Bounce Back campaign(www.bouncebackproject.org) that aims to improve physician and public health by making the community a happier place. The initiative encourages people of all ages to perform random acts of kindness.

Family Practice Management recently published a three-part series by family physician and burnout expert Dike Drummond, M.D., that covers recognizing symptoms and causes of stress, reducing stress and work-life balance. All three articles are eligible for AAFP Prescribed CME credit for one year from the date of publication.

I appreciate that none of these tools is going to improve reimbursement, make payers more reasonable about prior authorizations or improve the interoperability of our electronic health records systems. However, these tools can help us be the best we can be in our "inner space" while we struggle to eliminate the challenges and burdens that occupy the "outer space" of our practice of medicine. After all, if we can't take care of ourselves, we won't have anything left to care for others.

Lynne Lillie, M.D., is a member of the AAFP Board of Directors.


Posted at 03:48PM May 18, 2016 by Lynne Lillie, M.D. | Comments [0]

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The opinions and views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions and views of the American Academy of Family Physicians. This blog is not intended to provide medical, financial, or legal advice. All comments are moderated and will be removed if they violate our Terms of Use.