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The Breadth of Family Medicine – New Numbers

February 5, 2018
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Family physicians know a lot about a lot of symptoms, diagnoses, and healthcare system issues. I think the AAFP and other FM organizations have generally done a lousy job explaining the breadth of the work we do, but now we have numbers to tell the story better.

A study by the American Board of Family Medicine¬†used a national study of ambulatory medical care, NAMCS, to try to determine how many things U.S. family physicians address in their patient care visits. It was from a 2012 study using ICD-9 codes. The study found that almost 1,900 different ICD-9 codes were recorded on the NAMCS visits. We know from previous work we’ve done that this might still be under counting a bit. The NAMCS data entry form does not allow for unlimited issues the doctor addressed in the visit.

So what do family physicians do that is so important and valuable?¬† For a start, we care for patients by making medical decisions for 1,900 symptoms and diagnoses. This doesn’t include the procedures we perform and other knowledge sets such as how to work EMRs, insurance company rules, where to seek help for social determinant challenges, and so on.

Sounds really important to me.

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