Meaningful Use Regulations Pave the Way for Progress

AAFP’s Center for Health IT commends focus on care coordination and quality but will advocate for revisions to help small- and medium-size practices

Friday, January 22, 2010

Megan Moriarty
Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237 Ext. 5223

LEAWOOD, Kan. — The American Academy of Family Physicians and its Center for Health Information Technology support the goals of the new meaningful use regulations announced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and believe they can facilitate progress in optimal health IT use among doctors and patients. However, the regulations, as proposed, pose hurdles that challenge small- and medium-size medical practices’ ability to achieve all that is required to receive the incentive payments.

In December, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published regulations that set out the definitions and processes required for doctors and hospitals to receive incentive payments for meaningful use of certified electronic health records technology. It also set the criteria and standards for certified EHR technology.

The new federal regulations will influence both how EHR technologies are used and the nature and features of EHR technologies themselves, perhaps for the next generation. They lay a foundation for improving the quality, efficiency and safety of the nation’s health care through the use of certified EHR technology. However, the meaningful use criteria and timeline may make it more difficult for physicians in small- and medium-size practices to qualify for the incentive payments.

The AAFP has been a strong advocate for the adoption of health IT for the past decade. It has worked even longer to encourage the transformation of family medicine practices and the larger health care system.

“The new meaningful use regulations dictate objectives that align with the AAFP’s mission,” said Steven Waldren, MD, director of the AAFP Center for Health IT. “We are specifically encouraged by their focus on care coordination, quality and patient-centered care.”

The “meaningful uses” of EHR technology described in the regulations and advocated by the AAFP include electronic medication prescribing, clinical decision support at the point of care, analysis and reporting of evidence-based measures of quality and performance, and the sharing of health information and educational resources with patients. The AAFP also has strongly supported the interoperable computerized exchange of health data, a key element of meaningful use. In fact, the AAFP led efforts to develop the Continuity of Care Record (CCR) standard, which is now part of the formal certification criteria for EHR technologies.

The AAFP will provide constructive feedback for improvement in its formal response to HHS before the deadline at the end of February.

“We want the EHR incentive program to succeed,” Waldren said. “And we hope our suggestions will improve its chances of transforming health care for the better.”

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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 129,000 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five office visits -- that’s 192 million visits annually or 48 percent more than the next most visited medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.

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