Family Medicine and Family Physicians

What is Family Medicine?
Family medicine is the discipline for physicians in family practice, the medical specialty that is concerned with the total health care of the individual and the family. The family physician is educated to have unique attitudes and skills, which qualify him or her to provide continuing, comprehensive health maintenance and medical care to the entire family.

What is a Family Physician?
Family physicians are trained in many areas of medicine, including pediatrics, geriatrics, internal medicine, psychiatry, surgery, obstetrics, gynecology and community medicine. This gives them the capability to treat more than 85 percent of all illnesses. The scope of family practice encompasses all ages, each organ system and every disease entity, be it biological, behavioral or social. More importantly, the family physician delivers patient centered medical care that emphasizes the important role of the individual and their family in taking responsibility for their health. Family physicians are experts in the care of patients who have more than one health problem and diseases that involve more than one organ system.

Extensive Education and Training
After eight years of undergraduate college and medical school, these physicians complete a three-year specialty residency in family medicine. Of more than 400 approved residencies nationwide, Iowa has nine of the most highly acclaimed programs. These programs train not only graduates of Iowa schools but also those of medical schools across the nation.

Comprehensive Care to Families
Family physicians provide continuing and comprehensive health care for the individual and the family. The family physician serves as the patient’s or family’s advocate in all health-related matters, including the appropriate use of consultants 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; evaluates his patients’ 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 his/her own care; and accepts responsibilities for his patients’ health care, including the use of consultants, within the context of their environment -- the family and the community.

Quality Assurance through Continuing Education and Certification

Iowa Academy of Family Physicians requirements for membership: As a networking chapter of the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Iowa Academy of Family Physicians provides continuing medical education to family physicians in Iowa. Members of the IAFP must complete a minimum of 150 hours of approved continuing medical education every three years to maintain membership.

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.
The MC-FP process is divided into four major components that provide evidence of professional standing, lifelong learning, cognitive expertise, and performance in practice.

Professionalism
This component is designed to ensure professional standing. It will include information provided by both patients and other physicians. Completion of this component will require the following:

  • Possession of a valid and unrestricted license in all states in which you maintain a license. This is the same as the current requirement.
  • Peer review, via a process which is currently under development by the ABFM in partnership with the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). This will be completed either by phone or over the Internet, and will likely be introduced in 2005. This review will be required once during the seven-year MC-FP cycle.
  • Demonstration of patient satisfaction, also using an instrument currently under development by the ABMS. This will also be required once during the MC-FP cycle.

Self-Assessment and Lifelong Learning
This component has two parts that allow you to focus on specific areas of knowledge of your own choosing. The purpose is to enhance your knowledge and skills in areas that are of greatest use in your individual practice. Completion of this requirement will require the following:

  • 300 credits of continuing medical education (CME). This is the same as the current requirement.
  • One Self-Assessment Module (SAM) per year, for a total of six. These modules will be accessed over the Internet. They consist of two parts, with the first part assessing cognitive knowledge with respect to a particular disease or problem and the second part assessing your ability to apply that knowledge using patient simulation technology developed by the ABFM. It will be possible to choose up to two modules from providers other than the ABFM. The modules will also count toward your CME requirement.

Cognitive Expertise
This component requires successful completion of the ABFM examination, and the requirement is the same as in the past. The examination may be taken either six or seven years after the previous successful examination. Failure to take or pass the examination by the end of the seventh year will result in loss of certification.

Performance in Practice
This component consists of a Performance in Practice Module (PPM) which must be completed once during the seven-year MC-FP cycle. Instead of focusing on recordkeeping, however, the PPM will focus on quality of care.