Marcia Frellick

June 10, 2015

CHICAGO — Interactive online modules, which offer continuing medical education credit, can help physicians solve some of the most time-consuming problems they face in their practices, according to American Medical Association (AMA) leaders.

The 16 modules in STEPS Forward were introduced here at the AMA 2015 Annual Meeting by President Steven Stack, MD, and James Madara, MD, who is executive vice president and chief executive officer of the association.

The project was developed in response to a 2013 AMA–RAND survey that uncovered high levels of stress among physicians, largely associated with increased regulatory requirements, administrative tasks, and electronic health record implementation.

"We were getting a metasignal that there were problems in terms of the efficacy and efficiency of running one's practice," Dr Madara said.

According to the survey, 81% of physicians said they were satisfied with their job, but 47% described it as extremely stressful and 19% said they were "definitely burning out," as previously reported by Medscape Medical News.

STEPS Forward

The modules — which contain videos, case studies, and question-and-answer formats — cover topics such as improving blood pressure control, buying software for electronic health records, synchronizing prescription renewal, and enabling staff to do team documentation. They are free to all physicians and operate on iPads and smartphones.

The modules were developed by teams of volunteer physicians. They contain examples of practices that have been successful in specific areas and describe how they got there and what problems they encountered. More than 2000 physicians have beta-tested the program, and the feedback has been positive, Dr Madara reported.

 
We want to restore the joy to the practice of medicine.
 

At least nine more STEPS Forward modules will be added this year. As part of the launch, the AMA and the Medical Group Management Association will award $10,000 for the best ideas for future modules. Ideas must be submitted by September 1.

The modules also demonstrate how practices can save money and improve care.

For example, the previsit planning module calculates that a previsit planning — involving a combined 1 hour/day of physician and staff time — could save a practice $26,400 a year, assuming $3/minute per physician and $1/minute for staff.

And the module on electronic health record implementation details hardware needs for different types of server hosts and explains what to look for in an information technology service company.

To claim CME credit, physicians must view the module, answer four of five questions correctly, and complete an evaluation.

Dr Stack said that physician satisfaction — along with reimagining medical schools and preventing and controlling diabetes and hypertension — is among the priorities for the association.

"We want to restore the joy to the practice of medicine," he said. Physicians who use the modules will find, "in a just-add-water sort of way, that these approaches will save a substantial amount of time and make your day or week go better."

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