AMA's Robert Wah channels Yoda on HIT's future

While American Medical Association President Robert Wah referred to "Star Trek" in his inaugural address in June, he called upon the spirit of "Star Wars" in his address to the House of Delegates at the AMA Interim Meeting last week in Dallas.

More precisely, the edict from Master Yoda: "Do. Or do not. There is no try."

One thing the industry must do, not try, is to end the sustainable growth rate, Wah said. Though the Senate approved a one-year delay, the AMA was deeply disappointed in the outcome. He said the association came away with a framework to end the SGR, with the support of both parties and more than 600 physician groups.

He also said that each of the six Star Wars films has this line: "I have a bad feeling about this." That line applies, he says, to ICD-10; the Sunshine Act, the government's troubled website that lists financial relationships between physicians and drug and device manufacturers; and the patchwork of laws and regulations such as Meaningful Use, the Physician Quality Reporting System and the Value-based Modifier Program. The AMA wants the reporting requirements streamlined to meet requirements for all Medicare physician quality programs, he said.

"This hodgepodge cuts physicians' time with patients, wastes energy and resources and fuels professional dissatisfaction. And, ironically, discourages the very investment in new technology and new approaches to the delivery of care it's supposed to promote," he said.

That Star Wars line applies to electronic health records, too, he said. Though EHRs have the potential to vastly improve care coordination, they are difficult to use, eat up physicians' time, interfere with patient interaction and degrade documentation, he said, adding that Meaningful Use only makes things worse.

AMA seeks more flexibility with Meaningful Use, expanded hardship exemptions, improved quality reporting and better interoperability.

"We cannot let the technology rule us--we must rule the technology. Like a Jedi warrior--be not averse to technology, but don't rely on it alone, at the expense of our own senses, training and clinical acumen," he said.

In addition, he reiterated the AMA's support for telemedicine and its policy backing in-state licensure. 

Relief from the myriad government mandates and improved interoperability were also among the three "Congressional Asks"--formal requests that HIMSS made to Congress in September to advance health IT.

To learn more:
- read Wah's speech

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