Family Doctors Want to Reduce Health IT Burdens

A trade group representing family practice physicians is asking federal health officials to be mindful of the administrative burdens on family doctors and offered solutions to improving the current regulatory environment.

In a letter to Seema Verma, MPH, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator, and Don Rucker, MD, the national coordinator for health IT at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), the American Academy of Family Physicians reminds the agency that family physicians are forced to spend more time on paperwork than talking directly with patients.

“The AAFP maintains that the current regulatory framework with which primary care physicians must comply is daunting and often demoralizing,” writes John Meigs Jr., MD, FAAFP, AAFP board chair. “Standardization is not required among public or private payers, and many family physicians participate with 10 or more payers. Physicians are forced to navigate rules and forms for each payer. As a result, physicians spend needless hours reviewing documents and literally checking boxes to meet the requirements of each health insurance plan.”

The letter lays out the results of several studies investigating the way physician time is spent, and how electronic health records (EHRs) have deleterious effects on patient outcomes and physician job satisfaction. It then offered policies that could be tweaked to reduce physician burdens.

Proposed changes included:

  • Minimizing health IT utilization measures
  • Lessening evaluation and management documentation requirements
  • Encouraging interoperability through solving information blocking and data exchange measures
  • Encouraging standardization through clinical data models
  • Encouraging quality measure harmonization
  • The streamlining of preauthorization processes among payers

Legislation such as the Medicare Authorization and CHIP Reauthorization Act was intended to transition the “meaningful use” EHR Incentive Program to a less burdensome quality measure format, but the AAFP says that inefficient use of health IT warrants another look at how it’s used.

“Policies that mandate (or financially penalize) physicians’ prescribed use of health IT should be analyzed to assess the evidence of benefit and burden in real-world practice prior to their implementation,” the letter states. “Policies should support the varying needs of the diverse populations for which physicians care and not establish a generic, one-size-fits-all model, as it leads to system waste.”

Click here to read the full letter.

Mary Butler is the associate editor at The Journal of AHIMA.

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