Quality Improvement Organisations to help physicians adopt and use IT for better care in the USA

Washington D.C. 30 May 2005Under a new three-year contract (2005-2008) with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the national network of Quality Improvement Organisations (QIOs) will begin in 2005 to help physicians adopt and use Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and other health information technology (HIT) to improve care. QIOs will assist the physician practices that often need the most help, mainly smaller and medium-sized practices that make up the majority of primary care practices in America.

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QIOs will seek to accelerate adoption of HIT by offering free assistance assessing and redesigning office work flow and care processes so that physician practices can use HIT for improved efficiency, quality and patient safety in their every day work. Helping physicians use HIT to implement more effective care management processes and patient self-management of chronic conditions is a key QIO goal.

Importantly, QIOs will work with physicians to utilize best practices in adopting HIT so that difficulties with systems adoption do not cause physicians to abandon efforts to use HIT effectively. However, QIO assistance to physicians is not intended to supplant technical support from vendors of EHRs and other HIT systems.

QIOs will complement vendor-supplied support by providing ongoing guidance on how to use EHRs to improve clinical performance. One major focus will be to help physicians use HIT to track how often they use recommended practices for the treatment of common chronic conditions or how often they provide recommended preventive services. This information can be an invaluable guide to improving care. For example, QIOs will help physicians track performance on measures such as annual blood sugar testing for management of diabetes; mammography for breast cancer detection; flu and pneumonia immunizations; blood pressure screening and control for hypertension; cholesterol screening for heart disease management; and beta blocker therapy for heart attack victims.

In addition, QIOs will soon begin work with hospitals to support adoption and use of computerized physician order entry, bar coding, and telehealth technologies with the goal of improving readiness and/or use of IT. QIOs will work as well to help home health agencies use telehealth technology.

The American Health Quality Association is dedicated to improving the safety and effectiveness of health care. AHQA represents the national network of Quality Improvement Organisations (QIOs) that work with hospitals, medical practices, health plans, long-term care facilities, home health agencies, and employers to encourage the spread of best clinical practices and improve systems of care delivery. More information is available at the Web site of the American Health Quality Association.


Leslie Versweyveld

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