When Maurice J. Oakley, MD, an Ashland ophthalmologist, assumed the position of President of the Kentucky Medical Association (KMA) at the Association’s Annual Meeting in Aug. 2017, he had several goals in mind. However, one stood out above the rest, and seemed to be intertwined with other issues plaguing physicians and patients across the state: administrative burdens.
Following the example set by KMA’s 2013 strategic planning session, Oakley decided to focus his efforts and make reducing administrative burdens central to his year as president. He began collaborating with KMA staff to develop a plan for tackling the issues that contribute to physician burnout and patient dissatisfaction, increase the cost of care and ultimately impact overall health outcomes.
What would eventually become the initiative AIM for Better Care: Administrative Improvements in Medicine began with Oakley’s monthly President’s Message in the KMA member publication Kentucky Health eNews. The first message, released in November, solicited an overwhelming response from members who felt the Association and Dr. Oakley were speaking to the concerns of the majority of physicians across the state.
“I think as physicians, we understand that documenting and reporting on the health of our patients is part of the job. But we spend an overwhelming amount of time in front of a computer and not in front of a patient. This isn’t sustainable and shouldn’t be acceptable,” said Oakley.
As the messages continued, specific issues were outlined with feedback from the membership. An email address that members could use to send in their own reactions and insights was established. Prior authorizations, use of appropriate CPT coding, and consistent reporting of quality measures were discussed as examples of barriers to providing care.
“Patients suffer from limited face time, rushed, impersonal visits and reduced access to care as the result of excessive administrative and clerical tasks. And in a state like Kentucky that falls near or at the bottom of many health rankings, we can’t afford to stand idly by and wait for changes to be made,” Oakley wrote in December.
Improving patient care remained at the forefront as the project took shape. KMA compiled a list of key issues that negatively impact Kentuckian’s health and where administrative barriers may contribute to the problem. KMA used the 2017 passage of Senate Bill 89, which removed widespread administrative barriers to tobacco screening and cessation programs, as inspiration. The five areas identified as the focus for the project were smoking, drug abuse, diabetes, obesity and flu/pneumonia.
With an overall goal and focus areas identified, AIM for Better Care: Administrative Improvements in Medicine, launched in February. KMA staff is currently working with county medical societies to set up meetings across the state for physicians and office personnel to share their information and opinions on how these issues can be tackled. Oakley insists solving these problems will result from a combination of advocacy, education and public awareness.
“This project is just getting off the ground, but I see it as a long-term initiative that will evolve as the healthcare industry changes,” said Oakley. “Physician voices are just far too valuable to be drowned out by noise from those not on the front lines of patient care every day.”