AAFP Urges HHS Secretary to Hold Health IT Vendors Accountable

February 21, 2017 02:20 pm News Staff

Family physicians devote substantial time to checking boxes in their electronic health records, and the increasing burden and frustration associated with performing many such tedious health IT tasks recently led the AAFP to urge the new HHS secretary to press for improvement.  

In a concise letter(2 page PDF) sent to HHS Secretary Tom Price, M.D., on Feb. 16, the AAFP outlined the main problems physicians encounter with health IT systems they often must use even though they fail to provide the support needed to succeed in value-based payment models. These shortcomings mean time spent dealing with technology often detracts from patient care instead of improving it.

The letter, signed by Board Chair Wanda Filer, M.D., M.B.A., of York, Pa., summarizes the daily frustrations of health IT, including the lack of interoperability between systems and the lack of accountability on the part of vendors to support data-sharing across the medical community.

"We need technology that enables us to collectively work smarter rather than harder in a period marked with increased clinical and administrative burdens and increasing primary care physician shortages," the letter stated.

The letter highlighted several ways that improving technology would assist physicians with patient care, beginning with the fact that effective interoperability would give them the patient data that is essential for clinical decision-making.

"Too much focus has been placed on creating health IT solutions to automate the business of health care, especially documentation, as opposed to health IT solutions that support the delivery of appropriate care to promote health," the letter stated. "We must create an environment that flips this focus."

The AAFP told Price that physicians continue to express frustration with health IT systems and associated burdensome regulatory demands that make the daily practice of medicine more, rather than less, difficult.

"Clinician satisfaction with health IT continues to go down, not up," the letter stated. "There are numerous editorials and stories about health IT contributing to physician burnout and frustration." 

In a final point, the AAFP emphasized the conflict and misalignment between regulations tied to value-based physician payment and existing health IT systems that fail to support value-based care. Vendors are not held to account for this gap, but family physicians have to make significant adjustments to their practices to comply with federal regulations and avoid payment penalties.

"This mismatch needs to be addressed by either reducing accountability on eligible clinicians, increasing the accountability on health IT vendors, or both," the letter stated.

The letter invited Price to open a dialogue about these issues, and noted that the AAFP has policy proposals and strategies to mitigate these frustrations that can be shared with HHS.

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