December 30, 2019
The American Medical Association (AMA) recently announced a new policy aimed at reducing the burden on physicians and improving data surrounding public health surveillance. AMA Announcement.
In short, the policy formalizes the AMA’s recognition of public health surveillance as “a core public health function essential to informing decision making, identifying underlying causes, and responding to acute, chronic and emerging health threats.” This recognition allows for increased funding at the state and local level directed at modernizing the U.S.’s public health data systems.
So, what impacts will this policy have moving forward? Let’s take a look.
While the above overview provides a general idea of what the AMA’s new policy entails, its more than simple recognition and funding.
Essentially, the modernization expected to result from this state and local funding should allow improvements in both the quality and timeliness of public health data. The AMA also aims to support further electronic case reporting, which automatically pushes conditions entered into electronic health record (EHR) systems to public health agencies tasked with reviewing them.
Finally, the AMA officially encouraged state legislatures to “engage state and national medical specialty societies and public health agencies when proposing new mandatory disease reporting requirements.”
Generally, the AMA is looking to streamline how public health data is collected and reviewed, bringing the country’s collection and analysis of this data more in line with modern technological capabilities.
In the AMA’s press release announcing the organization’s policy shift, AMA Board Member Willie Underwood III, M.D., MSc, MPH underscored this goal.
“By modernizing the nation’s public health surveillance systems and implementing electronic case reporting, data will automatically be reported directly through EHR systems in accordance with applicable health care privacy and reporting laws,” he said.
The AMA has aimed this policy at, first and foremost, reducing the burden physicians bear due to their obligation to submit public health data to appropriate agencies.
The Association acknowledged this burden, conceding that the manual reporting of data takes critical labor and time away from the goal of the nation’s health care system – caring for patients.
The overall effect, then, should be to allow the desired modernization and automation to take over in part for what physicians are currently asked to do manually. This benefit should then spill over to the patients in these physicians’ care, as more time will be spent on exceeding a base level of care and less time on reporting tasks.
With automation and modernization entering the equation, the AMA also expressed a desire for public health data to be timelier and of a higher quality, as the processes for getting the data in the right hands should be streamlined and more efficient than the current system.
Without simple, efficient EHR systems at the heart of this modernization effort, the AMA’s new policy and its proposed benefits can’t come to fruition.
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