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2024 AAFP Corporate Roundtable Wrap Up

Each year, the American Academy of Family Physicians hosts a Corporate Roundtable event to bring together representatives (family physicians) of the AAFP membership, strategic leaders from the AAFP, and various vendors from industry interested in the family medicine mission. The goal of the conference is to discuss the AAFP’s strategic objectives for the coming year and build collaborative momentum between the AAFP and the vendor community as well as amongst vendors. I attended on behalf of Elation for the third year in a row, this time in Nashville, Tennessee, the home of the country music industry.

There were many great presentations, covering the state of healthcare, policy, AAFP strategic priorities, and trending topics. We also had small group discussions on important matters facing family physicians today, covering payment transformation, technology, best practices, and others. Some things that stood out to me:

  • The prevalence of obesity in kids is now 20%. This is an epidemic. I was talking recently to a pediatrician colleague here in San Antonio (where the childhood obesity rate is actually 32.4%). He works in a Federally Qualified Health Clinic and regularly cares for families with children who have such severe obesity that they are referred to a pediatric bariatric program. This means that children over the age of 10 years are being treated with aggressive interventions like gastric sleeve surgery or GLP-1 agonists because their obesity is so severe that the potential risks of health complications secondary to their obesity outweigh the potential risks of these (drastic) interventions. This may not be a problem primary care can solve, but it is a health consequence of our society that primary care must bear with our patients, increasingly so.

  • The number of pediatricians is decreasing. Historically, family physicians have shared the responsibility of caring for children and adolescents with our pediatrician colleagues. Unlike most other developed countries, pediatricians commonly care for healthy children in the U.S., and their care is graduated to a family physician or an internist as they mature into adults. While the decline in pediatric workforce is primarily in subspecialty areas, this is straining the entire system of care for children, placing more burden on pediatricians and family physicians to care for children with more complex disease.

  • Maternal care deserts have increased by 5% since 2020. This translates into delayed or inaccessible prenatal care, especially in rural areas, for up to 6.9 million women and affecting almost 500,000 births, associated with higher maternal and infant mortality rates. The causes are complex, but one thing is certain: many family physicians, especially in rural communities, are the safety net providing crucial prenatal and perinatal care for their communities, along with all the other commitments a family physician has in these underserved areas.

  • Investment in primary care continues to shrink. According to Shawn Martin, CEO of the AAFP, national spending on primary care as a percentage of total healthcare fell close to another percentage point in the most recent statistics, placing it at 4.7%. This pales in comparison to peer nations, whose investment in primary care is at least double ours, and where health system performance and outcomes excel by comparison.

  • Technology is a field of a thousand blooming flowers, but which one do I pick? This is the question facing primary care clinicians everywhere. In the age of “there’s an app for that”, it’s hard to know which solution, or set of solutions, will bring the most value to one’s practice. The AAFP is searching for ways to centralize third party vetting results and provide peer collaboration to help physicians identify the best solutions “for a doctor like me in a practice like mine”.

These facts may paint a bleak picture of healthcare in America, but I’m inspired daily by the heroes who are fighting for change, and this year’s corporate roundtable reportedly saw record attendance. That’s a strong indicator that there are champions and opportunities waiting to be harnessed into collective action - which is exactly the point of the AAFP Corporate Roundtable. As Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

Sara J. Pastoor, MD, MHA is Elation's Head of Primary Care Advancement and leader in primary care advocacy. Dr. Pastoor is a board certified and clinically active family medicine physician. Her experience as a primary care innovator spans a career in military medicine, academic medicine, private practice, and employer-sponsored delivery models. She received her MD from Rosalind Franklin University of Health Sciences and MHA from Trinity University.