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Health IT to Be Part of Specialist Certification

08/11/2010

Health IT to Be Part of Specialist Certification

By John Gever, Senior Editor, MedPage Today
Published: August 10, 2010
Reviewed by Zalman S. Agus, MD; Emeritus Professor
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and
Dorothy Caputo, MA, RN, BC-ADM, CDE, Nurse Planner
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Familiarity with healthcare information technology (HIT) and electronic records systems may soon be part of the specialist board certification process, the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) announced.

The group said it was considering development of two self-assessment modules covering health IT to be included in maintenance-of-certification programs for its 24 member specialty boards.

“It’s readily apparent that building meaningful use of HIT into maintenance of certification will benefit patients,” Kevin B. Weiss, MD, ABMS president and CEO, said in a statement.

“Aligning maintenance of certification and meaningful use of health IT will help to facilitate physicians’ knowledge, skill, and use of health IT, and in turn can improve physician performance and patient outcomes.”

One proposed module would test knowledge of IT systems that incorporate evidence-based medicine into physician practices. The other would evaluate knowledge of systems for promoting patient safety through computerized order entry, coordination of care, and medication reconciliation.

Initial products will be developed for the ABMS’s three member boards covering primary care: the American Board of Family Medicine, the American Board of Internal Medicine, and the American Board of Pediatrics. About half of the 750,000 U.S. physicians with specialist board certifications obtained them through these three bodies.

The ABMS’s announcement noted that “meaningful use” of health IT, as defined in the federal government’s current push to encourage physician uptake of the technology, “overlap[s] with the six core competencies that are continually measured through the ABMS maintenance of certification.”

These are patient care, medical knowledge, practice-based learning and improvement, interpersonal and communications skills, professionalism, and systems-based practice.

The ABMS is also considering additional ways to cover health IT in its certification processes:

  • Patient scenarios that would be included in the modules to demonstrate functionality of electronic records systems, which would serve as training for physicians
  • Data exchange utilities that would streamline submissions to the Physician Reporting Quality Initiative and the meaningful-use evaluations required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
  • Web-based practice improvement modules to help physicians collect data from medical charts and patient surveys, which could be combined with other data for comprehensive practice-performance assessments in specific clinical areas.

Lori Heim, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, told MedPage Today in a phone interview that the initiative was welcome, so long as it’s voluntary for physicians.

“Our concern is, I don’t think it’s ready to be a requirement,” she said. “We’re waiting to see how they roll it out.”

She said some aspects of health IT had been demonstrated to be beneficial, but for some others, “the jury is still out.”

“A lot of people have electronic records [systems] that have questionable benefits for their practices and for their patients,” Heim said.

But the ABMS initiative could be useful in helping physicians choose better systems and use the ones they have more effectively, she said.

“Anything that helps physicians to use health IT in a meaningful way to improve patient care, that’s a good thing,” Heim said.

She added that members of the AAFP’s executive board would be meeting soon with their counterparts at the American Board of Family Medicine. “I’m sure [the initiative] will be a topic of conversation,” she said.

The ABMS is the governing body for physician specialty certification, coordinating 24 individual boards for specialties ranging from allergy and immunology to urology.

Just curious if HIT is part of the new Ambulatory Pharmacy Certification?

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