Family medicine is the solution to American health care

I believe that family medicine is the solution to American health care.

I believe that family doctors give high quality, cost efficient care. Counties with the right proportion of primary care to specialty care have populations who live longer and health care that costs less. Too many specialists and not enough family physicians leads to unnecessarily expensive care and shorter life expectancy.

I believe that family doctors provide something intangible to our patients and our communities as well. We value relationships with our patients and our communities. We tailor the care we give to our patients’ values and preferences as much as possible. We care for every age at every stage, and we provide continuity of care to individuals and generations.

I believe that family medicine has an image problem that is largely our own fault.  The average American does not know what a “family doctor” is. Many family physicians are fatigued from wading through our fragmented health care system, and too few of us feel we have the time and/or the skills to share who we are and what we do with the public.

I believe that family medicine is under attack. The RUC devalues what we do, largely because family medicine is underrepresented on the RUC (only 1 family physician out of 31 physicians on the committee). My office receives more payment for snipping off a skin tag than for a thirty-minute patient visit working with a patient on his/her diabetes, hypertension, and heart failure, along with the the social challenges that often co-exist with the medical issues.

I believe that family medicine will overcome these challenges. I have seen the future of our specialty in the applicants to our residency program and the students who attend our specialty meetings. They are intelligent, dedicated, and optimistic. They believe in what family medicine can do and are not shy about sharing it. They are taking over social media with their stories. They are our future, and the future is bright.

Family medicine is the solution to American health care.  This I believe.

Jennifer Middleton is a family physician who blogs at The Singing Pen of Doctor Jen.

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