In October 2003, the AAFP established itself as a leader in the world of health information technology when it created its Center for Health IT. Now, more than a decade later, the center has a new name and a redefined focus.
Welcome to the AAFP's Alliance for eHealth Innovation.
Why the change? In an interview with AAFP News, Alliance Director Steven Waldren, M.D., ticked off a couple of reasons.
"Nearly 80 percent of our family physician members now are using electronic health records (EHRs) in their practices," said Waldren. "It's time for the AAFP to increase its focus on helping family physicians optimize their EHR investments so that they can achieve the triple aim of improving population health, enhancing the patient experience and reducing health care costs."
Secondly, he said, "In the eyes of family physicians, the AAFP has done a good job of exposing them to EHR technology, but nationwide, we need more progress on the interoperability and usability front. That's what this change is all about."
- The AAFP recently announced a shift in its health information technology focus from implementation of electronic health records (EHRs) to optimization of the technology.
- As part of the shake-up, the Academy renamed its Center for Health IT to the Alliance for eHealth Innovation.
- The Academy will partner with innovative family physicians and health IT stakeholders to solve issues pertaining to EHR usability and interoperability.
Waldren noted that the term "alliance" was chosen to lead off the new name because it speaks to the partnerships the AAFP plans to cultivate.
"There are many family physician innovators in our membership who have successfully optimized health IT," said Waldren. "We want to partner with them, learn from them and share their best practices with other family physicians."
Furthermore, he noted, "We know that the issues around interoperability and usability are monumental, and there are organizations out there spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to solve those issues.
"Clearly, the AAFP cannot do it alone. We need to partner with other stakeholders to effect the necessary changes, and the Alliance signifies to the health care IT ecosystem that the Academy wants to partner with other experts to find solutions."
Waldren stressed that family physicians can count on the Alliance to be a reliable EHR resource just as they have always counted on the AAFP for guidance on health IT questions. Ditto for the Academy's advocacy efforts on federal legislative and regulatory issues -- such as electronic prescribing and meaningful use -- that affect how family physicians go about their daily work.
"We'll continue all of those important activities even as we expand our work on interoperability, usability and workflow," Waldren explained.
An AAFP news release about the Alliance described the Academy's new health IT focus as covering four areas: discovery, deployment, development and data.
Touching on the data piece, Waldren said, "I anticipate a much greater interest in analytics -- gathering data and making it more accessible to family physicians. We need to have the data in hand to drive all of these efforts and to show that family medicine really is delivering on that elusive triple aim."
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