Family Physicians Set the Path for America’s Healthcare
By Javette Orgain, MD
Family physicians, students, residents, and others from across the US descended on Denver earlier this month to learn about the latest research in medical care and procedures, elect their leadership, and network with one another during AAFP’s annual meeting, the 2015 Family Medicine Experience.
The message they took away from the meeting: Family medicine continues to lead the nation in identifying the policies that are building a healthcare system of efficient, high-quality care that improves individual and community health.
“Our time is now,” said newly installed AAFP President Wanda Filder, MD. “America is hungry for answers to a broken US healthcare system. We have tapped into what America needs. We are the answer to what ails the US healthcare system.” Noting the success of the Family Medicine for America’s Health initiative and its public education counterpart, Health is Primary, Filer said legislators, policy makers, and the public now realize that family physicians provide ongoing, coordinated, and comprehensive care for both patients in overall good health and those with multiple, highly complex health conditions. Policy makers now understand the healthcare system must pay for the medical expertise and time that family physicians invest in each of their patients.
Community Health Moves to Center Stage
If one theme dominated the 2015 AAFP Congress of Delegates, it was the commitment of family physicians to their patients. From speeches to resolutions, family physicians demonstrated their focus on ensuring all patients have what is needed to enjoy good health.
The resolutions put before the Congress addressed multiple issues: affordable access to care and medications; an environment in which physicians can focus on patient care without heavy administrative burdens or cumbersome reporting requirements; healthy communities; preservation of rural hospitals; and a host of other issues affecting individual and community health.
Among the resolutions that passed were those that called on the AAFP to:
- Collaborate with public health agencies to reduce the negative effects of income, education, and nutrition inequality in order to improve health outcomes.
- End non-medical exemptions for immunizations.
- Support a federally funded adult vaccine program.
- Support expanded use of Naloxone to allow first responders and other non-physicians to administer the medication in an emergency overdose.
- Support decriminalizing the possession of marijuana for personal use and encourage NIH to conduct appropriate research on the health effects of marijuana use.
- Urge Congress and federal agencies to investigate policies that result in pharmaceutical price increases that create barriers to generic medications.
Educational Sessions Bring Medical Research to the Exam Room
With their work complete, AAFP’s 116 delegates joined more than 3,800 of their colleagues for four days of continuing medical education on research, diagnosis, and treatment of illnesses, chronic-care management and patient-centered care. Attendees chose from more than 140 sessions on prenatal care, cardiovascular disease, cancer, fibromyalgia, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and psychiatric and neurological conditions.
Family physicians came away from their four days inspired by their leaders and their colleagues. “This is a time that we can network, this is a time that we can become educated,” said another attendee, summing up the meeting. “This is a time that we can get to meet our leaders. This is something we can learn, we can create, and then we can take back home. I’m in rural medicine. I need something new. We need to be stimulated and we get it from the conference.”
Javette Orgain, MD is vice speaker of AAFP and medical director of Village of Park Forest Health Department.