AAFP pilots Elation Health EHR to ease provider burden

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) is teaming up with Elation Health, an electronic health records platform vendor for primary care, in an effort to ease administrative burdens on physicians as part of the group’s newest collaboration.

The partnership, facilitated by the AAFP Innovation Lab, will trial Elation Health’s platform with participating family physicians and assess the use of the Direct Primary Care payment model.

Unlike traditional fee-for-service insurance billing, which rewards providers for the volume of care provided rather than the quality or outcome, the Direct Primary Care delivery model charges patients a monthly fee to cover all or most primary care services, simplifying the administrative burden and allowing physicians more time with patients.

The second phase of the pilot will assess the benefits of Elation Health’s platform itself. The open, interoperable EHR supports integration with additional technologies while maintaining the user experience, the company said in a statement.

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“Traditional EHRs have greatly eroded healthcare experiences rather than enhancing them,” said Steven Waldren, M.D., AAFP vice president and chief medical informatics officer, in a statement. “In studying promising new technologies in family medicine, we found interoperability to be key. We have worked with multiple EHR vendors, and Elation’s platform provides the type of support and open architecture that meet our Innovation Lab requirements. When we discovered that Elation users were actually delighted with their EHR—high praise about an EHR from physicians—we knew we’d found an ideal collaborator for the next phase of our Innovation Lab efforts.”

According to the AAFP, many physicians feel dissatisfied with their EHRs, seeing them as impediments to patient care rather than tools to facilitate that care. The AAFP created the Innovation Lab to address these frustrations with EHRs by finding technologies to alleviate administrative burdens.

"Too many family physicians across the U.S. are burned out, trapped in traditional, legacy technology built around coding and billing, entirely unprepared for a value-based, patient-relationship, collaborative-care future," said Sara Pastoor, M.D, director of primary care advancement at Elation Health. "With primary care physicians spending an extra 1-2 hours doing 'paperwork' for every one hour of face-to-face patient care, it is no surprise EHRs that have promised greater efficiency and better health outcomes have failed to deliver on either one."

In fact, technology has added to physician workload and driven up the overhead burden, Pastoor said, and the cost of technology usurps funds that could have been invested in resources that drive value directly to patients.

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The Innovation Lab first partnered with Suki, a digital assistant that uses artificial intelligence and voice-enabled technology to complete physician tasks like taking notes and retrieving information from patient records. In the first phase of the Suki lab beginning in 2019, 100% of physicians reported experiencing time-saving and increased satisfaction with the EHR, and a report on findings from the second phase of the lab is in progress.

The AAFP also announced a collaboration with Navina in September 2020, whose signature product automates data capture and analysis by transforming patient data from multiple sources into summaries for clinicians called “patient portraits.” Phase one of the Navina lab is ongoing.

In addition, the AAFP, along with Elation Health and 11 other organizations, formed Primary Care for America in June, a partnership to advocate for primary care in public policy and drive innovation in care delivery and payment models.

"Primary care clinicians provide valuable preventive care and are often the first line of defense in managing chronic diseases, identifying and diagnosing mental health illness and reinforcing public health activities,” said Kyna Fong, Ph.D., CEO and co-founder of Elation Health, in a statement announcing the group's creation. “However, their critical role has historically been underprioritized and under-resourced. It's time we changed that."