August 01, 2018, 08:48 am Sheri Porter – As the calendar pivots to August, here's an important date for family physicians to note: Aug. 1 marks the beginning of open enrollment for the AAFP Proficiency Testing (AAFP-PT) Program 2019 program year.
AAFP-PT -- created to ensure high-quality laboratory testing for physician offices, urgent care centers and small hospital laboratories nationwide -- has been a valuable resource for many family physicians for nearly 26 years.
Clients new to the program this year can enjoy a more efficient online ordering system by simply visiting the AAFP-PT webpage to create a lab account. Users who need help creating their account or have questions about the program can contact the AAFP-PT Program by email or by phone at 800-274-7911.
As always, current customers will receive an enrollment reminder in the mail. Physicians will want to consider the nine new modules available in the 2019 catalog.
Making access to labs more convenient for patients is important to family physicians. In fact, nearly 94 percent of AAFP members who participated in the Academy's 2014 practice profile survey said they offered patients point-of-care lab testing.
But some of those members, as well as family physicians new to practice, may not have considered why proficiency testing is also an important part of patient care.
Christine Schimpf, manager of the AAFP-PT Program, told AAFP News that proficiency testing ensures that the lab results physicians relay to patients -- and that guide physicians' diagnoses and treatment plans -- are indeed accurate.
"The AAFP-PT program is simple to use but gives physicians confidence that they are providing the right medical care based on true lab results," said Schimpf.
Here's how it works: Three times a year, AAFP-PT ships preordered modules to client clinics, where laboratory staff then test the samples just as they would specimens collected from real patients. The test results are then reported back to AAFP-PT for grading.
"If a lab test answer is noted as incorrect, it raises questions as to how many patients potentially were given inaccurate lab results. Testing the competency of staff who are responsible for performing lab work on patients should be standard practice," said Schimpf.
With the 2019 enrollment period on tap, Schimpf and her team are urging physicians to assess their practice needs and plan their orders for next year.
"Early enrollment is important to ensure sample availability to our physicians," said Schimpf. Orders placed now will determine what samples are produced in October for delivery in the spring of 2019, she explained.
Those who miss this initial enrollment period should know that AAFP-PT staff will continue to enroll practices throughout the year, but some samples may be in short supply and not available for every shipment.
Schimpf likes to persuade family physicians who are on the fence to consider the AAFP's product. "If you're shopping for a PT provider, be sure to look at our catalog, because AAFP prices are very competitive with other testing sources out there," she said.