2014: Year of the Family Physician (Part II)

In my last blog, I proposed that “we prepare throughout 2013 to anoint 2014 as the Year of the Family Physician.”  Now, I offer some strategy and direction.  Sustained meaningful and valued movements depend on individual connections at the most basic level.  We move along a path from touch to grasp to embrace.  An attitude of gratitude conveys acknowledgement, acceptance and affirmation to those we serve.

Hold open discussions with your practice or office, local or state family medicine chapter on how your part of the country can take co-ownership in the design of 2014 as the Year of the Family Physicians.  Investments can be as modest as printing up bumper stickers with that declaration.

On an individual level, start by thanking our patients.  For many of us, a schedule teeming with last minute additions, double-bookings, and complex cases represents more chaos than comfort.  Yet, each patient elected to support family medicine and is an underappreciated ally.  If our relationship with patients is housed in the patient-centered medical home, we should be accommodating and welcoming.  Let us collect our thoughts and count our blessings for the opportunity to serve.  Thank your patients during their encounters or use your electronic health records to type a thank you for their support of family medicine in the after-visit summary.  This gesture may seem trivial or insignificant.  However, I believe it distinguishes us as physicians and serves notice that we do count our patients as our partners in health care.

Next, ask local establishments if they will place a bumper sticker with “2014 Year of the Family Physician” in their windows.  Appeal to civic groups.  Again, thank them if they have ever gone to see a family physician.  Seize the moments of conversation to tell them that when they support family medicine, they have made a choice to prioritize primary care that is effective and cost-efficient.  Write to your local elected officials and ask them to sponsor a public proclamation or resolution declaring 2104 as the Year of the Family Physician.  I have contacted my city councilman, county supervisor, and state senator requesting they join in the movement.

In Scott Goodson’s book Uprising: How to Build a Brand–and Change the World–By Sparking Cultural Movements, he notes that successful movements start with the what, advance to the how, and peak with the why.  The what: This movement will provide the public and leaders with a new lens to view family physicians.  It will highlight that public support will elevate the perception of family physicians as cost-effective coordinators of comprehensive care.  And, increased public support will demonstrate to medical students that family physicians are valued.  The how: This is where everyone, not just family physicians, contributes.  Authentic movements are home-grown, grassroots and retain a local flavor.  We make the movement accessible to all and on a scale that captures our personal relationships with our patients.  Yet, when we string the local efforts together, it becomes a global force.  The why: We recognize that there needs to be a tipping point, a game-changer or an idea born from outrage and outreach.  Our current health care system is not sustainable.  We all lose given the current projection of the family physician shortage.  We take this stance as physicians, children, siblings, spouses, parents, friends, neighbors and as individuals who cannot be indifferent.

Start the Tweets with the hashtag #2014yearfp:

The movement begins with you and your circle of influence.  This is not for personal gain, but for a shared future.  Please update me with your ideas and successes.

The next blog: the uniform.


Author: Ronald Fong, MD, MPH

Dr. Fong's opinions are his own and do not represent UC Davis. He can be reached at ronald.fong@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu.

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