In support of the American Academy of Family Physicians’ efforts to improve electronic health records (EHRs) and reduce administrative burden for members, the AAFP has announced the creation of a new vice president and chief medical informatics officer position to pioneer the specialty’s efforts to optimize the health information technology (IT) experience for all of family medicine.
Steven E. Waldren, MD, MS, will fill this new position. As a family physician informaticist with expertise and experience from software development and medical informatics through entrepreneurship and health IT policy, Dr. Waldren is well qualified to lead this new effort. Additionally, as a recognized national leader in health informatics, he is well positioned to create collaborations and alignment with other organizations who are pursuing similar goals.
Reducing administrative burden is a top AAFP priority. Health IT is now an integral component of family medicine with connections to many aspects of care delivery and the domains of AAFP work. This position has been created to help shape when and how artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) will impact our specialty.
The family medicine experience is centered around a deep patient-physician interaction that requires support from robust technology. Today’s EHRs have greatly eroded the experience of caring for patients rather than enhancing it. It is time for the AAFP and family medicine to make a bold statement that we will no longer accept the status quo.
In addition, the AAFP Board of Directors, at its meeting in New Orleans, approved a special project to drive innovation and improve the family medicine experience. While the potential future impact technology can have on decreasing administrative and clinical burden is profound, the AAFP will be focused initially on relieving the burdens of current EHRs.
AI/ML have the potential to fundamentally change the experience of being a family physician. As with any disruptive technology, AI/ML is neither good nor bad inherently – the effects are determined by how it is used and for what purpose. It is important for the AAFP and family medicine to ensure that AI/ML is used to improve the experience of being a family physician. It is not a matter of if AI/ML will transform what it means to be a family physician, but rather a matter of when and how. This special project represents the AAFP and family medicine working to harness this proven technology and using it for the greater good of patients and physicians.
If the AAFP can help lessen the documentation burden, this could lead to greater member satisfaction, improved member well-being, and greater practice efficiency. Achieving these outcomes is not easy but it is doable with good strategies, partnerships, and investment. There are several new companies working on potential solutions. The AAFP has the opportunity to support that work within family medicine, and that’s what this special project program aims to achieve.