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ACP Proposes Physician Payment Reforms and Technology Incentives to Improve Quality, Lower Health Care System Costs

February 2, 2005

(Washington, DC): American College of Physicians (ACP) released a policy framework today in its "Report on the State of the Union's Health Care" to support and enhance the patient-physician relationship through reforming the Medicare payment system and by creating incentives for practice innovation and improvement

The dysfunctional payment systems and excessive paperwork requirements employed by Medicare and other payers make it difficult—and at times, impossible—for physicians and patients to take the time required to develop and sustain the level of communication, trust and confidence needed to deliver optimal care, said ACP in the report.

"Congress and the Administration must act immediately to permanently stabilize Medicare physician payments by averting future cuts," said ACP President Charles Francis, MD, FACP. "Otherwise, inadequate funding of this vital program will permanently weaken the health care system on which America's senior citizens depend."

ACP called on Congress and the administration to create incentives for physician practice innovation and improvement. Such innovations would include use of electronic medical records and other health information technology to create:

  • evidence-based practice improvement;
  • incorporation of clinical decision support tools into daily practice at the point of care; and
  • new practice models to improve coordination of care of patients with chronic diseases; and improved overall efficiency.

ACP called on Congress to enact a "National Health Information Incentive Act" to provide initial and sustained funding for physicians to invest in electronic medical records and other essential health information technology to support quality improvement.

ACP also asked Congress to:

  • Authorize a new federal pilot to test the effectiveness of an innovative patient-centered, physician-guided chronic care management program centered on supporting the patient-physician relationship.

  • Pass legislation to substantially reduce the number of uninsured Americans and, at a minimum, assure that existing safety-net programs for the poor are not undermined.

  • Expand the small practice pay-for-performance demonstration project created by Section 649 of the Medicare Modernization Act.

  • Reform the medical liability system because it undermines the patient-physician relationship.

  • The current system encourages a defensive, distrustful and adversarial relationship between patients and their physicians rather than the kind of collaborative relationship that leads to better care and fewer medical errors," said Dr. Francis.

The full report is available online.

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.

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

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