Social media channels benefit physicians both as sources of content and as platforms to distribute content. But it's important to get the message right. If you decide to become active in social media -- especially if you are interested in disseminating information and opinions -- the AAFP has guidelines that can help you accomplish your objectives.

Here's how to succeed in the four performance categories of the Merit-based Incentive Payment System: quality, cost, improvement activities, and advancing care information. Read more here.

Family medicine is the medical specialty which provides continuing and comprehensive health care for the individual and the family. It is the specialty in breadth which integrates the biological, clinical and behavioral sciences. The scope of family medicine encompasses all ages, both sexes, each organ system and every disease entity. 

Family Medicine’s Scope & Philosophy

Family medicine is the continuing and current expression of the historical medical practitioner. The first physicians were generalists. For thousands of years, these generalists provided all of the medical care available. They diagnosed and treated illnesses, performed surgery, and delivered babies.

As medical knowledge expanded and technology advanced, many physicians chose to limit their practices to specific, defined areas of medicine. With World War II, the age of specialization began to flourish. In the two decades following the war, the number of specialists and sub-specialists increased at a phenomenal rate, while the number of general practitioners declined dramatically.

The public became increasingly vocal about the fragmentation of their care and the shortage of personal physicians who could provide initial, continuing and comprehensive care. Thus began the reorientation of medicine back to personal, primary care. The concept of the generalist was reborn with the establishment of family medicine as medicine’s twentieth specialty.

Family medicine is a three-dimensional specialty, incorporating the dimensions of (1) knowledge, (2) skill, and (3) process. While knowledge and skill may be shared with other specialties, the family medicine process is unique. At the center of this process is the patient-physician relationship with the patient viewed in the context of the family. It is the extent to which this relationship is valued, developed, nurtured and maintained that distinguishes family medicine from all other specialties.

In the dimension of process, the family physician functions as the patient’s means of entry into the health care system. The family physician is the physician of first contact in most situations and, as the initial provider, is in a unique position to form a bond with the patient. The family physician evaluates the patient’s total health needs, and provides personal care within one or more fields of medicine. The family physician’s care is comprehensive and not limited by age, sex, organ system or type of problem, be it biological, behavioral or social. The family physician’s care utilizes knowledge of the patient in the context of the family and the community. This care emphasizes disease prevention and health promotion.

The family physician refers the patient when indicated to other sources of care while preserving continuity of care. The family physician’s role as a cost effective coordinator of the patient’s health services is integral to the care provided. If the patient is hospitalized, this role prevents fragmentation and a lack of coordination of care. This role also allows the family physician to serve as the patient’s advocate in dealing with third-party payers, employers, and others. Thus, in the family medicine process the patient-physician relationship is initiated, established, developed, and maintained for both sexes, for all ages, across time, and independent of problem type.

Although all family physicians share a core of information the dimensions of knowledge and skill vary with the individual family physician based on patient needs and the physician’s continuing education. As patient needs differ in various geographic areas, the content of a family physician’s practice varies accordingly. For example, the knowledge and skills used by a family physician practicing in an inner city may vary from those utilized by a family physician practicing in a rural setting. Furthermore, the scope of practice changes over time. The family physician’s practice continually evolves as competency in current skills is maintained and new knowledge and skill are obtained through continuing medical education.

This growth in medical information also confers on the family physician a responsibility for the assessment of new medical technology and for participation in resolving ethical dilemmas brought about by these technological advances. In summary, the family physician of today is rooted in the historical generalist tradition. The specialty is three dimensional, combining knowledge and skill with a unique process. The patient-physician relationship in the context of the family is central to this process and distinguishes family medicine from other specialties. Knowledge and skills vary among family physicians according to their patients’ needs and the ability to incorporate new information into their practices. Above all, the scope of family practice is dynamic, expanding and evolutionary.

The family physician is a physician who is educated and trained in family medicine – a broadly encompassing medical specialty.

Family physicians possess unique attitudes, skills, and knowledge which qualify them to provide continuing and comprehensive medical care, health maintenance and preventive services to each member of the family regardless of sex, age or type of problem, be it biological, behavioral, or social.

Family Physician Education and Training
After eight years of undergraduate college and medical school, these physicians complete a three-year specialty residency in Family Medicine. Of the more than 450 approved family medicine residencies nationwide, Massachusetts has five of the mostly highly acclaimed programs. These programs train not only graduates of Massachusetts' medical schools but also those of medical schools across the nation and around the world.

Comprehensive Care to Patients
Family physicians, because of their background and interactions with their patients, are best qualified to serve as each patient's advocate in all health-related matters, including the appropriate use of consultants, health services, and community resources.

Evaluates Patient's Total Health Care Needs
The family physician serves the public as the physician of first contact and means of entry into the health care system; the family physician evaluates the patient's total health needs, provides personal medical care within one or more fields of medicine, and refers patients, when indicated, to appropriate sources of care while preserving the continuity of the patient's care; the family physician accepts responsibility for the patient's total health care, including the use of consultants, within the context of their environment – the family and the community.

Quality Assurance Through Continuing Education
As a constituent chapter of the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians provides continuing medical education to family physicians in Massachusetts. Members of the MassAFP must complete a minimum of 150 credits of approved continuing medical education every three years to maintain membership.

Examination to measure competency in the specialty of family medicine and to grant certification are administered by the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM). Three hundred credits of continuing medical education (CME) are needed to take the board examination. The ABFM was the first certifying board to require recertification by examination every seven years. The Maintenance of Certification Program for Family Physicians (MC-FP) is a new mechanism for assessment of practicing family physicians. In the past, recertification has required possession of a full and unrestricted license, completion of 300 credits of continuing medical education, and successful completion of a cognitive examination. MC-FP has similar requirements, but will also require participation on an ongoing basis between examinations. The major objective of MC-FP is to provide opportunities for prospective professional development.

Continuing medical education requirements of the MassAFP/AAFP requires that members helps assure ongoing quality health care for each individual and family in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.