October 20, 2017
2 min read

New AAFP president: Top priority is ‘administrative burden relief’

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Michael Munger
Michael L. Munger

Michael L. Munger, MD, FAAFP, the recently sworn-in president of the AAFP, told Healio Family Medicine relief from administrative burdens, primary care payment reform and keeping in place the health care gains made through the Affordable Care Act are his top goals and priorities.

“I mentioned administrative burden relief first because members tell us that is their top priority. Therefore, I would be remiss in not putting it at the top of my list,” he said.

In this interview, Munger, who is also a practicing family physician and vice president of medical affairs for primary care at Saint Luke’s Physicians Group in Overland Park, Kan., discussed how he and the AAFP will implement these objectives, how primary care physicians can get more face-to-face time with patients during office visits, and more. – by Janel Miller

Question: How will the AAFP work to relieve the administrative burden on PCPs and improve primary care payments?
We will continue to stress to our partners, such as CMS, several important issues: There should never be a prior authorization required for a generic medication or for ongoing medications for conditions that patients have under control; there needs to be standardized online forms instead of paper forms that are different for every payer; and there needs to be widespread adoption and implementation of the core quality measure sets to harmonize quality metric reporting and ease billing and coding requirements.

Q : D o reports like the one in Annals of Family Medicine that indicate PCPs spend half their day on electronic health records worry you?

A: It’s very concerning when you have to take away time from patients to deal with a tool that was intended to enhance overall patient flow. PCPs are spending time after office hours and evening meals to work on electronic health records and that is extremely troubling.

Q: How can PCPs get more face-to-face time with their patients?

A: Many of our colleagues have found that using scribes or other office support is helpful. These employees can perform the documentation related to office visits, which gives PCPs more time to spend with patients; this often increases physician satisfaction.


Q: In light of the significant workload PCPs face, what are your thoughts on how some medical specialists seem to be pushing more responsibili ties i nto the primary care system ?

A: I view this as a positive — it shows everyone is starting to recognize the impact of primary care. Specifically, many of our specialty brethren recognize that PCPs who have coordinated, comprehensive and continuous relationships with patients help reduce duplication of services, as well as benefit cost controls and quality of service.

Q: The AAFP has said that long hours and the admini strative burden are leading factors for physician burnout and disengagement. Besides the strategies you mentioned earlier, h ow else is the AAFP addressing the well-being of its members?

A: One way is through our recently launched Physician Health First initiative. I understand how the name of this program might seem strange, since it’s drilled into us from the first day of medical school and in all of our training that patients come first. However, if a physician is not in a good place or is unhealthy, he or she cannot be there for their patients. We’re also having our first-ever Family Physician Health and Well-being Conference (April 18-21, 2018, in Naples, Fla.) that will discuss ways to provide better patient care and enhance professional satisfaction.

Q: How can medical professionals help achieve health care reform?

A: Our members are very powerful and have powerful voices. They need to talk to their legislators and engage patients into these conversations.


American Academy of Family Physicians. Board of Directors. http://www.aafp.org/about/governance/board-directors.html. Accessed Oct. 11, 2017.

American Academy of Family Physicians. Family Physician Health and Well-Being Conference 2018. http://www.aafp.org/events/fpwb-conf.html. Accessed Oct. 11, 2017.

Disclosure: Munger is president of the AAFP.