"Image" was a big focus during the 2012 National Conference of Special Constituencies (NCSC) here May 3-5, as delegates considered various measures intended to boost family medicine's image among medical students and the public, reinforce the value of Academy membership among residents transitioning to new physician status, and raise the visibility of NCSC among AAFP members at all levels of the organization.
Jay Lee, M.D., M.P.H., of Long Beach, Calif., convener of the 2012 National Conference of Special Constituencies, testifies in a reference committee hearing about the power of social media to generate excitement about a given topic.
During a hearing on May 4, members of the Reference Committee on Organization and Finance heard testimony on a trio of resolutions that called for the AAFP to, among other things,
- investigate the feasibility of a campaign to brand and market family medicine that would be based on three core messages -- personal preventive care, coordination of care, and relationship with the patient and his or her family and community -- as well as look at distributing that three-pronged social media message to patients through "developing standard messages, providing technical assistance and disseminating best practices to members";
- create a marketing campaign directed at consumers that promotes family physicians as "well-qualified, highly trained physicians"; and
- develop a new, family physician-oriented tag line, as well as reprioritize the audiences to which the specialty is marketed to put the general public first, followed by health care decision-makers, business leaders and legislators.
"One of the things that is challenging is branding and getting that message out there," testified new physician delegate Ashby Wolfe, M.D., M.P.H., of San Francisco. Social media could prove useful in achieving those goals, she noted.
2012 NCSC Convener Jay Lee, M.D., M.P.H., of Long Beach, Calif., also embraced the idea of using social media to highlight the specialty. "One of the purposes of social media is not to tell people what you had for breakfast, but it's getting the word out" about important ideas or events and continuing to generate energy and excitement around those ideas, he told reference committee members. For example, "Using social media for this (NCSC) meeting was like cell growth -- 2, 4, 16, 256," Lee said.
- Delegates to the 2012 National Conference of Special Constituencies adopted measures intended to boost family medicine's image in the public eye.
- Delegates also adopted a resolution that aims to reinforce the value of Academy membership among residents transitioning to new physician status.
- Two other resolutions adopted seek to raise the visibility of NCSC among student, resident and active AAFP members.
"When we leave a meeting, we're energized," he noted, but that energy dissipates with time. "Social media allows us to keep that energy."
Women's constituency delegate Jen Brull, M.D., of Plainville, Kan., was particularly drawn to the concept of sharing best practices for disseminating family-medicine-friendly social media messages, but she took issue with the measure calling for the Academy to change its current tag line, "Strong Medicine for America."
"The AAFP recently developed a new tag line that was quite expensive," she testified. "To develop a new one at this point would be cost-prohibitive."
The second part of that resolution, however, struck a positive cord with minority physician delegate Tess Garcia, M.D., of Grain Valley, Mo. "We need to speak to our audience better," she asserted.
In its report, the reference committee noted that any marketing campaign, unless conducted via social media, would be prohibitively costly. Moreover, the specific goals of such a campaign are unclear and it would be difficult to quantify its success.
In the end, reference committee members combined the two marketing campaign resolutions, instead submitting a substitute measure that called for the Academy to "develop a social media toolkit to help members market and promote family medicine via social media." They also recommended that the third resolution, regarding the tag line, be referred to the AAFP Board. In voting the next day, NCSC delegates agreed on both counts.
The delegates also voted to adopt an amended version of a resolution directing the Academy to create a "Residency Key Contact Program" to boost communication between resident and new physician members, promote mentorship, and aid in membership retention. The resolution's authors also asked the AAFP to compile and distribute relevant content to be used by new physician "ambassadors" to reach out to residents, create incentives for them to do so, and reward them for successful recruitment efforts.
According to one of the resolution's authors, 90 percent of family medicine residents are Academy members, but that figure drops off dramatically within two years of leaving residency.
The potential cost factor, however, appeared to trip up the reference committee, which recommended the resolution not be adopted. In its report, the committee noted that other recruitment and retention activities targeting this group are ongoing and the proportion of residents converting to active membership has increased 5 percent in the past two years.
An amendment offered by new physician delegate Kelly Gabler, M.D., of Baytown, Texas, during the May 5 business session, however, set the stage for the measure's adoption. After voting to strip the phrase "funds for conducting innovative outreach to residency programs" from the resolution, delegates adopted it as amended.
A similar measure, which called for the AAFP to explore ways to coax members to serve as preceptors for medical students -- perhaps by reducing their membership or conference registration fees -- also met muster with delegates.
Finally, delegates adopted two resolutions specifically intended to raise NCSC's profile with various Academy member groups.
The first called for the NCSC convener to be funded each year to speak at both the National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students and the Congress of Delegates. Testimony in support of the proposal stated that this would raise the visibility of NCSC as a leadership pathway among students and residents and would reinforce the value of the meeting among delegates to the AAFP Congress, which reconsiders whether to continue NCSC every five years.
The second directed the Academy to reserve one of the three Annual Leadership Forum/NCSC reimbursed constituent chapter positions for an NCSC delegate as a means of increasing attendance at the meeting.
Storify.com: AAFP ALF/NCSC(storify.com)