HHS unveils $840M initiative to reform doctors' offices

Federal health officials unveiled a new initiative Thursday aimed at improving care and cost-effectiveness in individual medical practices.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will spend $840 million over four years with the goal of helping 150,000 doctors modernize their day-to-day work in ways that improve patient care and reduce costs.

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The practices could include better use of electronic health records, better coordination of care among providers and expanding ways patients can communicate with doctors, HHS said.

The "Transforming Clinical Practice" initiative is part of a wider push by the Obama administration and the Affordable Care Act to move U.S. healthcare away from its dominant fee-for-service model.

Value-based care, as opposed to volume-based care, can improve the experience for patients and help the industry grapple with rising costs, HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a statement.

"The administration is partnering with clinicians to find better ways to deliver care, pay providers and distribute information to improve the quality of care we receive and spend our nation’s dollars more wisely," Burwell said.

"We all have a stake in achieving these goals and delivering for patients, providers and taxpayers alike."

American Medical Association's chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, Barbara L. McAneny said, “The AMA has been urging the Administration to assist physician practices in adopting new payment and delivery models and we’re pleased that they have created a program that supports physician leadership."  

“We strongly believe that practice transformation can lead to improvements in the quality of care for patients, control health care costs and enhance practice sustainability as physicians embrace innovative new models," she continued.

The program will operate on an application-basis, allowing healthcare systems, provider advocacy groups and other players in the medical world to receive funds to coach individual medical practices on improving services.

Applicants will be judged based on their ability to achieve measurable goals, such as reducing unnecessary hospitalizations, the announcement stated.

This post was updated at 2:48 p.m.