MANUSCRIPT: The future role of the family physician in the United States: a rigorous exercise in definition
As the U.S. health care delivery system undergoes rapid transformation, there is an urgent need to define a comprehensive, evidence-based role for the family physician. A Role Definition Group made up of members of seven family medicine organizations developed a statement defining the family physician’s role in meeting the needs of individuals, the health care system, and the country. The Role Definition Group surveyed more than 50 years of foundational manuscripts including published works from the Future of Family Medicine project and Keystone III conference, external reviews, and a recent Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education Family Medicine Milestones definition. They developed candidate definitions and a “foil” definition of what family medicine could become without change. The following definition was selected: “Family physicians are personal doctors for people of all ages and health conditions. They are a reliable first contact for health concerns and directly address most health care needs. Through enduring partnerships, family physicians help patients prevent, understand, and manage illness, navigate the health system and set health goals. Family physicians and their staff adapt their care to the unique needs of their patients and communities. They use data to monitor and manage their patient population, and use best science to prioritize services most likely to benefit health. They are ideal leaders of health care systems and partners for public health.” This definition will guide the second Future of Family Medicine project and provide direction as family physicians, academicians, clinical networks, and policy-makers negotiate roles in the evolving health system.