AMA town hall in Seattle addresses issues with EHRs

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The evolution of health IT has opened up many doors, but also comes with some headaches. During an American Medical Association (AMA)-sponsored town hall meeting at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle on Jan. 26, physicians both lamented the difficulties of EHRs and offered suggestions for the path ahead.

The session, which was co-hosted by the Washington State Medical Association (WSMA), was the third AMA town hall on EHRs. Previous town halls were held in Boston and Atlanta.

AMA President Steven J. Stack, MD, said the meaningful use program had helped physicians and hospitals adopt EHRs, “but they weren’t ready for prime time,” according to a recap of the event posted on the AMA website.

The AMA noted that physicians at the Seattle town hall mentioned they want input on the design of EHRs and believe EHRs should be focused on usability and interoperability. They added that EHRs should be easier to use and not take too much time away from patient care.

“Administrative burdens are strangling medical practice and creating unnecessary and costly inefficiencies in health care delivery while adding stress to physicians and their teams,” said WSMA president Ray Hsiao, MD, according to the recap. “It can make a cynic out of the happiest people and can lead to discouragement, professional dissatisfaction and burnout, and even drive physicians to leave the profession. We cannot let that happen.”

Other recommendations included focusing on population health to track how physicians perform against their peers, addressing documentation and making it easier to spell-check and search within EHRs.

“When you’re searching for billing codes, you have to type it exactly correct or it boots it out,” said Carrie Horwitch, MD, a primary care physician in Seattle.

In November 2015, the AMA and 100 state and specialty medical associations sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services regarding the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and alternative payment models. The MIPS was introduced last year to replace the sustainable growth rate formula.