Thursday, March 3, 2011

Googling "Family Medicine" - who's defining us?

After my last post, I started to wonder about my non-family-doctor readers.  What if they are part of that large majority of people who really don't know what our specialty is all about?  Where might they go to learn more about us?

Google, of course.

So, here are the top 3 Google hits for "family medicine":

#1. Home page for the American Academy of Family Physicians.  The AAFP's home page, not necessarily inappropriately, focuses on CME (continuing medical education) for members, advocacy, and public health issues.  Some clicking around eventually leads to a "about the specialty" page, which has lots more links.  Click on one of them, scroll to the bottom of the page, and you'll find
Family medicine is the medical specialty which provides continuing, comprehensive health care for the individual and family. It is a specialty in breadth that integrates the biological, clinical and behavioral sciences. The scope of family medicine encompasses all ages, both sexes, each organ system and every disease entity.  http://www.aafp.org/online/en/home/policy/policies/f/fammeddef.html
Hmmm.  Maybe a little obtuse...if you manage to even find it buried in the site.  Let's move on.

#2. Family Medicine Journal, the official journal of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine;as an STFM member, I receive and read this journal regularly.  Much clicking around this site gives no succinct definition of family medicine.  Again, not totally unreasonable given the site's focus.

#3.  Wikipedia.  (C'mon, you knew it was coming.) 
Family physicians deliver a range of acute, chronic and preventive medical care services. In addition to diagnosing and treating illness, they also provide preventive care, including routine checkups, health-risk assessments, immunization and screening tests, and personalized counseling on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Family physicians also manage chronic illness, often coordinating care provided by other subspecialists. Many American family physicians deliver babies and provide prenatal care.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_medicine 
I must admit - decently done, Wikipedia. 

The Google hits further down start focusing on "find a local family medicine doctor" and family medicine residency programs.  So, truly, those people seeking to find a succinct answer about what our specialty is will probably stop with that Wikipedia link. 

National Family Medicine organizations, as a member of all of you, I implore you to add some simple definition of Family Medicine to your home pages.  I get that promoting Family Medicine to the lay public isn't your main agenda for these sites designed for physicians.  (Though maybe it should be on the agenda somewhere.)  But these sites are at the top of the Google "hit list" for our specialty, which confers responsibility on you.  Don't make people dig through your sites to find out who we are, and don't leave the job of defining us to unsanctioned voices on Wikipedia.

We, as a specialty, must speak with a bolder and clearer voice.

1 comment:

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