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  • AAFP to Shape Future of Health Care With New Informatics Push

    VP Steven Waldren, M.D., Named to Head Effort

    October 15, 2018, 02:14 pm Scott Wilson – To ensure that the AAFP remains at the fore of health IT, the Academy is establishing a new organizational pillar -- and initiating a significant new push to drive innovation in family medicine.

    Steven Waldren, M.D., M.S., has been named vice president and chief medical informatics officer to lead the Academy's new work.

    "We need to let the physicians get back to caring for their patients and not have to worry about technology," Waldren told AAFP News. "How do we catalyze new innovations and divert them into family medicine? How can we make sure family medicine can leverage the cloud, and mobile and artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning to improve the family medicine experience?"

    AAFP EVP and CEO Douglas Henley, M.D., said Waldren, a family physician informaticist with expertise that ranges from software development and medical informatics to entrepreneurship and health IT policy, is highly qualified for the new post.

    "As a recognized national leader in health informatics, he is well positioned to create collaborations and alignment with other organizations who are pursuing similar goals," Henley said. "The AAFP has created this new position to help shape when and how AI and machine learning will impact the specialty of family medicine."

    In particular, the Academy has set out to make electronic health records (EHRs) work for physicians, rather than the other way around. The AAFP Board of Directors this month approved an informatics project that will first focus on relieving EHR burdens for family physicians.

    "It is time for the AAFP and family medicine to make a bold statement that we will no longer accept the status quo," Henley said.

    Waldren has been addressing these questions for some time already. In 2014, the Academy launched the Alliance for eHealth Innovation, with Waldren at the helm. In that role, he has advocated for better health policy, as well as for robust competition among EHR vendors and advances in telemedicine.

    The benefits of tackling these and other IT matters are obvious, Waldren said. But we're not there yet.

    "Dramatic advances in EHR features and usability will not be the norm until we have market forces that incentivize the right competition," Waldren said. "We need to have a system that lets a doctor decide on Friday that he doesn't want to work with an EHR vendor anymore and have a new EHR in place on Monday, or be able to easily integrate new apps into an EHR."

    He went on: "The doctor is the main generator now of records, but in the new paradigm, which we are calling the self-documenting record, the computer staff and patient would be the main data enterers. The physician will have to enter only those things needing a physician -- and do it by speaking rather than typing.

    "The AAFP and its members have an opportunity to help shape the future of health IT by leveraging new technologies such as AI to ensure that burdens are dramatically reduced, health is improved and the family physician is empowered to expand their role in health care delivery."