The AAFP recently released a policy document that outlines how the nation could resolve its chronic shortage of family physicians by implementing targeted policies that value primary care.
The revised policy paper, titled "Family Physician Workforce Reform: Recommendations of the American Academy of Family Physicians," lays out a strategic plan regarding how to increase the annual production of new family physicians by an average of about 65 physicians each year through 2025. Doing so would move the needle on the number of practicing family physicians from 3,500 today to 4,475 in about a decade.
In a March 13 press release about the updated workforce policy, AAFP President Reid Blackwelder, M.D., of Kingsport, Tenn., called the plan a "comprehensive approach" that would recruit medical students into primary care, support the schools that produce more primary care graduates and expand community-based residency programs in communities that need services.
Americans need access to care and "a patient-centered practice environment that rewards the quality of care, not the number of tests or procedures," said Blackwelder.
In addition to increasing the number of residency positions, the AAFP policy calls for
- urging medical schools to develop admission policies that would both identify and recruit students most likely to pursue primary care,
- holding a portion of medical school slots for students who want a career in primary care medicine,
- measuring a medical school's production of primary care physicians by looking at a graduate's choice of specialty five years postgraduation rather than by first-year residency choice,
- appealing to all public and private health care payers to pay the costs of medical education,
- increasing funding for Title VII Health Professions Training Grants to medical schools that turn out more primary care physicians,
- emphasizing collaborative rural training sites,
- increasing support for the National Health Service Corps scholarship and loan repayment programs, and
- training family medicine residents to practice team-based care within the patient-centered medical home.
The policy also calls for payment reform so a patient-centered medical home -- the practice model that features the kind of comprehensive, coordinated care that results when payment is based on quality rather than volume -- is available to every patient in America.
The AAFP workforce policy complements a report published in the January/February issue of Annals of Family Medicine(www.annfammed.org) titled "Four Pillars for Primary Care Physician Workforce Reform: A Blueprint for Future Activity."
A number of organizations contributed to that report via their work on a task force created by the Council of Academic Family Medicine. Those organizations are the Association of Departments of Family Medicine, the Association of Family Medicine Residency Directors, the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine and the North American Primary Care Research Group.
The task force was supported in its efforts by the AAFP, the AAFP Foundation and the American Board of Family Medicine.
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