From the President

Member Survey Results Indicate Academy Is on Track

August 31, 2011 05:10 pm Roland Goertz, M.D., M.B.A.

This is it -- my last opportunity to communicate with you via a president's message in AAFP News Now. In two short weeks, my term as your president will end. For this final message, I'd like to share what members said on the 2011 Member Satisfaction Survey, our annual "report card" of what members think about the Academy and want the Board of Directors to do in the coming year.

[Roland Goertz, M.D., MBA, FAAFP]

AAFP President Roland Goertz, M.D., M.B.A.

We solicit member opinions through surveys and focus groups throughout the year, and we also pay attention to member comments posted on such venues as the AAFP Connection social networking site and the comment field beneath AAFP News Now stories. But the annual member satisfaction survey is the capstone of our member research efforts, giving us a statistically valid reading of the pulse of active members. Your Board spends the better part of a day carefully reviewing the survey results, including the verbatim comments. The results provide grist as we formulate the Academy's strategic plan for the year ahead.

I frankly wasn't sure what the 2011 survey would reveal, given the tumultuous, divisive months since the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But overall, I was pleasantly surprised and heartened by the survey results. A summary of key findings is available on the AAFP website, l but I'd like to share a few of them here.

First off, I was delighted to learn that 98 percent of survey respondents said they planned to renew their AAFP membership, a statistically significant increase compared with last year's 95 percent. I don't know of a better barometer of general satisfaction than this one.

On the Right Path

According to the survey, what members value most about the AAFP is advocacy, advocacy, advocacy -- and most members think the Academy is treading the right path in its advocacy efforts. Some specifics:

  • When asked what the Academy's top three priorities should be in the coming year, members chose priorities that are absolutely congruent with the ones we are pursuing. Payment reform was once again No. 1, to no one's surprise (but it was surprising that the percentage dropped significantly -- to 55 percent, compared with 65 percent last year). Medical liability reform was No. 2, with 41 percent. Attracting medical students to the specialty/workforce issues moved up to No. 3, with 26 percent -- up from 20 percent last year.
  • The question about priorities also included three new responses designed to gauge where members stood on the Affordable Care Act. Not surprisingly, the results showed divergent opinions. We were encouraged that 25 percent of respondents agreed the Academy was on the right track by working within the new law to maximize gains for primary care. Both "end" positions were represented, but by fewer respondents: 19 percent wanted the AAFP to work for the law's repeal, and 18 percent wanted us to push toward a single-payer or public option universal coverage system. The rest of the respondents didn't choose any of these three responses as a priority
  • Eighty-three percent of respondents said the Academy's advocacy effort was important to them. A substantial majority, 64 percent, agreed that the AAFP's advocacy efforts were aligned with their interests.
  • A substantial majority also agreed that the AAFP's leadership is leading the Academy in the right direction -- 65 percent, up significantly from 59 percent last year. That 59 percent had been a drop from the year before.

We took that drop last year very seriously and have worked harder than ever to be a bold champion for our members. For example, as the nation has debated how to change the health care system, we've stepped up and explained how family medicine could make the system better. We've funded a groundbreaking task force to explore alternative methods for valuing primary care services, while simultaneously putting the AMA/Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee on notice that we want significant changes in the way it operates.

We also have taken steps to improve the way we communicate our activities to members and have changed the tone and attitude of those communications. My thanks to those of you who have noticed and let me know.

Get Involved in AAFP -- Here's How

  • Apply to join the Academy's Marketing Research Online Community (Members Only) -- you can share your opinions with the AAFP and earn points to buy AAFP products.
  • Beginning this fall, follow the AAFP's new president, Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I., on Twitter and respond to a new Academy leaders' blog. Watch AAFP News Now for details.
  • Use Speak Out to amplify family medicine's voice as the nation gears up for the presidential election in 2012.

Importance of CME

As they did last year, survey respondents this year gave high marks to the AAFP's CME programs, American Family Physician journal and CME reporting/recording. In addition, when members were asked to divide $100 among the Academy's four mission areas -- advocacy, education, health of the public and practice enhancement -- they once again allocated the most money to education.

Clearly, members look to the Academy for high-quality CME, and we'll continue to meet that need.

Some Areas Need Work

The survey also showed some areas that need more work. For example, we haven't done enough to help members understand the importance of moving to the patient-centered medical home model of care, and we haven't provided enough useful tools to help members make the move.

Respondents gave the AAFP's public- and private-sector advocacy efforts high importance ratings but lower satisfaction ratings. We know the payment gap between subspecialists and primary care doctors is a key reason behind the lower satisfaction scores. We've had some success in closing the gap, but we know progress has been slow.

Most troubling to me was that only 47 percent of respondents indicated participation in some form of direct lobbying, a statistically significant decline from 53 percent last year. When those who didn't lobby were asked why, 26 percent checked "Unsure what to do." We need to make lobbying on behalf of family medicine easier for those members who are not actively doing so now, because grassroots lobbying is incredibly effective and will be critically important in the next few years.

The Academy also faces the challenge of meeting the needs of a membership that is increasingly balanced between physicians who are practice owners and those who are not. The 2011 Member Census found that 35.7 percent of respondents were sole or partial practice owners, while 59.1 percent had no ownership stake (100 percent employed). These two groups shared some responses on the member satisfaction survey, but in other areas, they had significantly different responses. We must work harder to understand and meet the needs of all AAFP demographic groups, including these, with the resources we have available.

Parting Thoughts

I'd like to close with some thoughts about the state of the Academy in these turbulent, high-anxiety and sometimes frustrating times. In spite of this stress-inducing environment, the member satisfaction survey had largely positive results. Academy membership reached an all-time high of 100,300 members. Our member retention rate increased. The number of medical students matching into family medicine residencies climbed. Our federal political action committee, FamMedPAC, has been growing nicely and may become a million-dollar PAC this year. (I urge you all to help make that a reality. It is a measure of influence to others.)

All of these developments indicate that you see, through our activities and our communications, we are working hard on the issues that matter. You increasingly see the Academy as a partner to rely on -- and that's the way it should be.

I want to thank each and every Academy member for the incredible privilege of serving as AAFP president during such a momentous year. It's been a challenge that I have relished. It's been an honor that I'll never forget.