The AAFP launched Family Practice Management during the 1993 debate over national health care reform, giving it the mission of helping family physicians adapt to changing times. At the time, perhaps not everyone recognized its importance. Some family physicians yet untouched by change may have concluded that the journal was not relevant to them. Others probably inferred from the title that FPM was for managers and not for doctors.
Yet from the first, FPM was intended for all family physicians. The Academy's leadership recognized that, whether change was legislatively propelled or not, the practice of medicine was rapidly changing. They saw the need for the AAFP to sponsor a journal that complemented the clinical orientation of American Family Physician. They envisioned a journal that would help equip all family physicians with the knowledge and skills they need to practice effectively in the continually evolving health care system. Today, a solid majority of family physicians are FPM readers, and even among nonreaders the majority recognize that it is important for the Academy to publish FPM.
One challenge FPM has faced from the outset is that its subject matter — all the knowledge and skills needed for effective practice except the purely clinical — is both varied and evolving. The question has always been how we can best serve the wide-ranging needs of family physicians today. As we embark on our second five years, though, we have an FPM “curriculum” to help guide us — a curriculum developed out of five years of exploration, research and thought.
We will use the curriculum as one of several guides in reviewing our monthly and yearly content to ensure that we are covering the broad range of information that family physicians are requesting. Because it also encapsulates FPM's ability to serve all family physicians, I thought you might be interested in seeing its main headings (see “The FPM curriculum”). The curriculum is, of course, a living document; it has to change as the world we practice in changes. Some topics, such as maintaining life balance, are likely to be with us forever, while others will come and go.
The FPM curriculum
Here are the broad topic areas you can rely on FPM to cover in the coming months:
Measuring and improving clinical care. Guidelines, best practices, disease state management, quality improvement, etc.
Maximizing patient satisfaction. Communication skills, patient education, patient satisfaction surveys, etc.
Maximizing reimbursement. Negotiating good contracts, understanding capitation, coding and documentation, collection strategies, etc.
Practicing ethically and legally. Reducing malpractice risk, ensuring confidentiality, advance directives, federal and state regulations, etc.
Using computers and information systems. Hardware and software, electronic medical records, using the Internet, etc.
Running an effective practice. Creative appointment scheduling, phone management, personnel issues, medical records, etc.
Monitoring health care trends. New legislation, the quality movement, hospitalists, etc.
Forming and operating groups and integrated systems. Planning, mergers, contracts, etc.
Enjoying salaried practice. Negotiating your compensation package, influencing your organization from within, etc.
Maintaining life balance. Balancing practice and family priorities, time management, stress management, etc.
We recognize that FPM covers topic areas in which the information needs of family physicians probably vary more widely than their needs for clinical information. Some curriculum themes, such as practice operations, salaried practice and group practice formation, are directed to certain segments of family physicians. Other themes, such as measuring and improving the quality of clinical care, using computers and maintaining life balance, are more broadly applicable. The FPM staff tries to publish a balanced set of feature articles and departments in each issue. We list resources for those who desire more in-depth information. We carefully review and deeply appreciate all your feedback, both constructive criticism and compliments. We are gratified when readers tell us that, because their own needs change, they keep back issues for future reference or regularly query FPM online through the AAFP home page. Our goal is to be useful to you, and we won't stop working to do a better and better job of achieving that goal.