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Am Fam Physician. 2005;72(10):1953-1954

AAFP Survey Shows Increased Use of EHR Systems by FPs

Information from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Electronic Health Record (EHR) survey showed that family physicians are leading the way in implementing EHRs into their practices. The survey was conducted by e-mail and received 2,569 responses. The AAFP adjusted numbers down to compensate for the selection bias. Since 2003, family physicians have nearly tripled their use of EHRs. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said their EHR system improved patients’ health and that they would recommend their EHR system to a colleague. Quick access to patient records was the EHR feature that 85 percent of respondents said proved most beneficial to their practice. Nine percent of respondents said they would implement an EHR system within six months; 35 percent said they would implement a system in one to two years; and 8 percent said EHR implementation would take more than two years. Approximately 55 percent of respondents said cost was the biggest barrier to EHR implementation. Twenty percent of respondents said their estimated first-year implementation costs were less than $5,000; 25 percent said their costs were $10,000 to $19,000; and 5 percent estimated their costs at $50,000 or more.

AHRQ Launches New Health Care Program

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has launched its “Effective Health Care Program” to help physicians and patients determine which drugs and other medical treatments work best for certain health conditions. The new program includes three components: comparative effectiveness reports; a network of research centers; and making findings clear for different audiences. The program includes naming 13 new research centers and an innovative center for communicating findings. The program will support the development of new scientific information through research on the outcomes of health care services and therapies, including medications. It also will provide physicians and patients with better information for making treatment decisions by reviewing scientific studies and identifying issues where there is insufficient evidence. The Web site for this program is:

AAFP Asks Members to Join Title VII Campaign

The AAFP recently launched a fourth action alert requesting members to ask their U.S. Representatives to support Title VII of the Public Health Service Act. Funds to medical schools for family medicine residency programs, predoctoral education, departmental support, and faculty development are provided by Section 747 of Title VII. The alert contained a model e-mail that Academy members can use to ask their Representatives to sign a letter by U.S. Reps. Charles Norwood, R-Ga., and Diana DeGette, D-Colo. The loss of Title VII funding would affect medical schools’ ability to produce adequate numbers of primary care professionals to meet future demand for medical expertise at community health centers.

AHRQ Rewards Over $22.3 Million for Health Information Technology

The AHRQ has awarded more than $22.3 million to 16 grantees for the implementation of health information technology systems. The recipients were selected from a group of AHRQ grantees who received health information technology planning funds in 2004. The additional funds will allow them to implement the plans they developed with the earlier grants. Eleven of the 16 grants were awarded to small and rural communities. The new projects will focus on sharing health information between providers, laboratories, pharmacies, and patients; helping to ensure safer patient transitions between health care settings; reducing medication errors; and reducing duplicative and unnecessary testing. These awards are in addition to 40 implementation grant recipients announced by the HHS last year. With the 16 additional awards, AHRQ’s investment in health information technology now totals more than $166 million.

Number of Malpractice Claims Filed Reduced, but Cases More Severe

Although the number of medical malpractice claims filed is falling, the severity of the claims being filed is rising. According to a report issued by Aon Corp., a provider of risk management services in Chicago, and the American Society of Healthcare Risk Managers, the frequency of malpractice claims decreased by one percent in the past year, while the severity of claims grew at an annual rate of 7.5 percent.

Humana Proposes Settlement of Class-Action Lawsuit

Humana Inc., Louisville, has proposed a settlement in its class-action lawsuit brought by family physicians who have contracts with the company or its subsidiaries. The physicians allege the defendants reduced or denied physician payment through bundling, downcoding, or rejecting the medical necessity of covered services. The companies, including managed care companies, also are alleged to have routinely failed to recognize current procedural terminology code modifiers or to pay claims within the statutory or contractual period. The agreement, if approved by the court, would conclude the lawsuit against Humana, which is scheduled for trial on April 17, 2006.

McGeeney Named CEO of AAFP Subsidiary, TransforMED Inc

Terry McGeeney, M.D., Ames, Iowa, recently was appointed chief executive officer of the AAFP’s new subsidiary company, TransforMED Inc., based in Leawood, Kan. Dr. McGeeney’s first task is to create and implement a national demonstration project that will help practices move toward objectives defined by the Future of Family Medicine (FFM) project. With the help of a national practice advisory committee, 20 member practices will be selected to participate in the 30-month project. By February 2006, practices will be selected, and the project will be underway by early summer 2006. The mentoring of family physicians who have already committed to adopting tenets of the FFM objectives will be a second endeavor for TransforMED and will run concurrently with the demonstration project. The company also plans on developing prepackaged products and services to improve patient satisfaction, physician satisfaction, and a practice’s fiscal position. Initially, these would be sold only to Academy members. Some of the assistance physicians might be able to purchase from TransforMED would include: assistance in setting up open-access scheduling; advice on how to improve a practice’s fiscal status; implementing an electronic health record; and help in moving to a more patient-focused practice.

AMA Wants Physicians to Contact Legislators About Medicare Cuts

The American Medical Association (AMA) is asking physicians to use its toll-free hotline (800-833-6354) to ask Congress to prevent Medicare cuts to physicians and to provide positive payment updates. The AMA hotline connects callers to their federal legislators. As of January 1, 2006, there will be a 4.4-percent reduction in Medicare payments to physicians. Payment updates for physicians have not kept pace with increases in practice expenses. In an AMA survey, many physicians said another pay cut or even a payment freeze would force them to cut services to Medicare patients. In 2006, the average physician payment rate will be less than it was in 2001.

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Copyright © 2005 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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