It appears two issues that drive family physicians nuts and that the AAFP has repeatedly railed against -- ineffective quality measures and overwhelming paperwork -- have been recognized by CMS as significant barriers to achieving a high-quality, efficient and cost-effective U.S. health care system.
Just a few weeks ago, the agency announced the launch of two new programs -- the Meaningful Measures initiative and Patients Over Paperwork -- that aim to provide some relief.
Although specific details about the programs are spotty at this point, some positive movement on either front likely will cheer work-weary physicians who bear the brunt of administrative burdens.
CMS Administrator Seema Verma first unveiled the Meaningful Measures program during an address at the Health Care Payment Learning and Action Network Fall Summit on Oct. 30 in Arlington, Va.
In her speech,(www.cms.gov) Verma said CMS was moving to focus on patients first.
"To do this, one of our top priorities is to ease regulatory burden that is destroying the doctor-patient relationship. We want doctors to be able to deliver the best quality care to their patients," said Verma.
She acknowledged that regulations have an important part in ensuring quality, integrity and safety in the health care system.
"But if rules are misguided, outdated or are too complex, they can have a suffocating effect on health care delivery by shifting the focus of providers away from the patient and toward unnecessary paperwork, and ultimately increase the cost of care."
Verma pointed out that physicians and hospitals report on an array of quality measures that differ from payer to payer. In fact, she noted that some family physicians "report nearly 30 measures to seven different payers … which leads to less time focused on patients and is contributing to clinician burnout.
"We have too many measures. We are measuring process and not outcomes."
Verma explained that the Meaningful Measures initiative aims to "reduce the burden of reporting on all providers" and would seek input from the Learning and Action Network, the National Academies of Medicine, the National Quality Forum and the Core Quality Measures Collaborative, in which the AAFP has taken a leading role.
Regarding the Patients Over Paperwork initiative, Verma acknowledged physician frustration with paperwork that distracts them from caring for patients.
She said the initiative will address regulatory burden by going through current regulations and asking these questions about each and every one:
- What's the purpose?
- Is this required by Congress?
- Does it make sense and does it help prevent fraud and abuse?
- Is it duplicative?
- Does it meaningfully impact patient care and safety, or improve outcomes?
- Is it necessary?
Verma pointed out that the CMS is one of the top offenders in the federal government when it comes to promulgating regulations. "We publish nearly 11,000 pages of regulations every year. That's a lot of paper, and it's taking doctors away from what matters most -- patients."
The CMS administrator closed her remarks by asking for help from America's physicians.
"I ask you for your ideas, your input and your innovative solutions for new payment models," and for help in reducing administrative burden and identifying those measures that are meaningful to improving the quality of patient care.
Stay tuned for more about these new initiatives as CMS gets them rolling.
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CMS press release(www.cms.gov)