A recent modification in the Academy's performance improvement program known as METRIC, or Measuring, Evaluating and Translating Research Into Care, means physician practices will have more flexibility when it comes to implementing practice changes.
On Dec. 3, the required minimum implementation, or "timeout," period for METRIC dropped to one month, a change from the previous three-month minimum implementation time.
The METRIC performance improvement initiative launched in 2005 and offers physicians online learning modules on six clinical topics: asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, coronary artery disease, depression, diabetes and hypertension. A seventh module aims to improve the care of geriatric patients.
The program combines evidence-based medicine with education, gives physicians the opportunity to evaluate how they manage chronic diseases and then encourages practices to make systematic changes to improve patient outcomes.
Susan Richart, the AAFP's manager of performance assessment and improvement, said the timeline change would help physicians "maximize their flexibility." The pace of practice change differs in each situation, she added.
Much depends on the intervention details, said Richart. "If a practice decides to create a patient registry, it may be three months after implementation of that registry before the practice is able to effectively measure the impact and benefits of that change," she said.
On the other hand, if a practice decides to tweak a flow chart in its electronic health record system to include something relatively simple -- such as documentation of foot examinations for patients with diabetes -- the practice could assess any increase in the number of foot exams for those patients in as little as one month, said Richart.
There is one caveat to the changes in the METRIC timeout period. Any practice that was engaged in a METRIC module and had electronically "saved" its action plan prior to Dec. 3 should adhere to the previous three-month minimum implementation timeline, said Richart.