The push to bring physician offices into the 20th century, let alone the 21st century, continues. Only about 15 percent of physician practices have electronic information systems, according to the National Committee for Quality Assurance. The organization aims to change that, in part by offering financial rewards to tech-savvy doctors through its Physician Practice Connections, part of the NCQA's Bridges to Excellence pay-for-performance program.
"There's probably no single more important step a doctor or medical group can take than to incorporate information technology into their practice," says NCQA President Margaret E. O'Kane. "It makes the difference between having all the information you need to provide exactly the right care, and relying on memory and educated guesses. The latter just isn't good enough anymore. Health information is crucial — that's what the PPC program promotes."
The NCQA has unveiled the new standards for public comment at «http://www.ncqa.org». Public comments were to be accepted through Oct. 11, with the final standards to be published in early 2006.
Another pay-for-performance program in upstate New York hopes to tap into bonuses offered by Bridges to Excellence as well. That, however, would be icing on the cake for participating doctors who came together to get a health information technology network up and running in order, in part, to garner P4P bonuses from individual health plans.
"Many health plans are prepared to pay for performance," John Blair, CEO of Taconic Health Information Network and Community, tells the New York Times. "The rub is that you have to have the technology in place to garner those incentives. You need to automate the reporting capability."
Taconic is a collaboration of 500 physicians who don't want the technological revolution to pass them by. The program, launched with $100,000 in seed money from the not-for-profit eHealth Initiative, is being watched by federal officials with an eye for making President Bush's goal of having all Americans' medical histories put on electronic medical records.
Taconic physicians pay a monthly subscription fee of $500 to $600. It's well worth it, says Eugene P. Heslin, MD. "The large groups can afford the software," Heslin tells the Times. "For the onesies and twosies, small groups like ours...." the cost is prohibitive.