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ACP Releases Legislative Proposal to Encourage the Adoption of Health Information Technology by Small Physician Practices

Half of all Physician Work in Small Practices

(Washington, DC): The American College of Physicians (ACP) today released a legislative proposal to facilitate the adoption of health information technology (HIT) in small physician practices. Health care in America could greatly benefit from increased use of HIT through improved patient care, reduction in medical errors, higher efficiency, and potential long run cost savings.

Approximately half of the practicing physicians in the United States work in practices with six or fewer physicians. The average cost for an electronic health records (EHR) system is $30,000 per physician. This initial cost, combined with the expense for transferring patient records and maintaining the system, often puts these systems out of the reach of small physician practices.

ACP seeks to improve patient care through the nationwide adoption of health information technology (HIT) for use by physician, other health care providers and patients. Paper records will be eliminated and replaced with electronic health records (EHR). All such records will be available through an interoperable National Health Information Infrastructure (NHII). These EHRs will provide clinically relevant patient information and clinical decision support tools as patients move from one health care setting to another. The ACP legislative proposal seeks to increase the adoption of effective HIT by all physician practices, but with special attention to helping smaller practices through various financial incentives and pilot testing of the standards in small practice settings.

"Tax credits, grant programs, loan programs and reimbursement incentives would make it possible for physicians in small practices to invest in the technology," said ACP President Charles Francis, MD, FACP. "Before America's patients can truly reap the benefits of health information technology it must be available and working where most people receive care."

Current Medicare payment policies act as a disincentive for physicians to acquire and use HIT. Separate payment for clinically-appropriate e-mail and telephonic consultations, add-on payments for office visits supported by electronic medical records, and reimbursement for care management services supported by information technology are among the reimbursement reforms advocated by ACP. Such reimbursement incentives should not be subjected to Medicare budget neutrality requirements, since investment in HIT will result in overall saving to the Medicare program. Medicare's sustainable growth rate formula also needs to be replaced by one that does not penalize physicians for the investments they make in technology.

HIT systems include applications such as electronic health records and clinical decision support software. Such systems would give physicians instant access to crucial patient information, deliver current medical research information, and best clinical practice information to the physician at the point-of-care, when the physician needs it. Such systems would enhance needed communication between the various sectors of the health care system and provide better coordination of care.

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include more than 116,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internists specialize in the prevention, detection and treatment of illness in adults.

[Note to Editors: A copy of the legislative proposal can be obtained by calling Jack Pope 202-261-4556, or Jackie Blaser 202-261-4572]

Jack Pope (202) 261-4556, jpope@acponline.org
Jacquelyn Blaser, (202) 261-4572, jblaser@acponline.org

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