Physicians have urgent message for ONC

Among the concerns: Resources may be spread too thin
By Bernie Monegain
10:52 AM
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Doctors in discussion

Responding to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's call for comments on its draft plan, the American Association of Family Physicians  did not mince words.

"Ease the administrative burden physicians face and build on goals set a decade ago," the AAFP wrote in a letter to ONC.

The ONC's 28-page "Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020," released this past December, outlines the federal health IT working plan for the next five years.

[See also: ONC updates Health IT Strategic Plan.]

The plan outlines five goals:

  1. Expanding health IT adoption,
  2. Advancing secure, interoperable health IT,
  3. Strengthening health care delivery,
  4. Advancing the health and well-being of individuals and communities, and
  5. Advancing research, scientific knowledge and innovation.

The Jan. 15 AAFP letter to National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo, MD, was signed by AAFP Board Chair Reid Blackwelder, MD, of Kingsport, Tenn.

"This strategic plan provides a blueprint to move forward, and we must now define and implement its tactics," said Blackwelder.

Blackwelder praised ONC for its work, but urged greater focus on population health management, care coordination and patient engagement.

"From the perspective of a practice, the myriad of regulations and rules from multiple agencies places a heavy administrative burden (on physicians)," said Blackwelder. "As efforts across agencies can be harmonized and, where possible, combined, it could significantly decrease this burden on practices."

He urged a "continued focus on value" and suggested that could mean simplifying regulations and eliminating waste.

Blackwelder pointed out that the ONC's goals of collecting and sharing health information were "indistinguishable" from the goals and objectives that were to have been achieved during the previous decade.

"We are concerned that work has not been done to determine why these goals have not been achieved during the past 10 or more years and how the tactics and activities of the next 10 years will be different," Blackwelder said.

[See also: AAFP urges meaningful use delay.]

He said the AAFP has its own health IT strategic plan for the next 10 years and noted that interoperability and usability were "top of mind" for family physicians.

The academy, Blackwelder noted, also is focused on the broader "triple aim" in healthcare – improving population health, enhancing the patient experience and controlling health care costs.

"Given the breadth and depth of the work that could be initiated around health IT, we are concerned that resources may be spread so thin that no significant achievements are made toward the goals laid out in the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan," said Blackwelder.

He encouraged the ONC to focus on the key capabilities healthcare organizations and physicians really need to move forward and specifically named population health management, care coordination and patient engagement as issues worthy of ONC's immediate attention.