The second-largest U.S. medical specialty society announced a plan to reinvent family medicine last week by using the ubiquitous deployment of healthcare information technology, retooled and IT-intensive residency and continuing medical education programs.
The 97,000-member American Academy of Family Physicians and six organizations related to the specialty issued a 30-page blueprint, "The Future of Family Medicine," published in the Annals of Family Medicine on March 30. The report shows a near 50% decline since 1997 in U.S. medical school graduates taking placement in some 400 family medicine residency programs.
Their disinterest has contributed to a "steady and progressing decline" from 1980 to 1999 in the percentage of physicians who specialize in family medicine. In addition, net income for physicians has slid in many fields but "more so for primary-care physicians than for specialists," the report said.
Still, the report noted that Americans favor receiving care from a physician who knows them.
The recommendations drew heavily on the 2001 Institute of Medicine report Crossing the Quality Chasm and were based on surveys of medical students, patients, physicians and residents.
The report echoes the IOM call to create a patient-centered "medical home" for all Americans, with family physicians as the coordinators of care. It calls for arming family practices with standardized electronic information systems and encouraging practitioners to use evidence-based medicine. The report also calls for a data-driven, career-long physician self-assessment system.
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