Small Practices Lack Resources for Quality Upgrades

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , June 24, 2009

Small medical practices provide nearly 75% all ambulatory care in the United States, yet many lack the resources to improve the quality of care delivered or install electronic health records to serve an increasingly diverse patient mix, according to a report released today by the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

"Our research shows that small practices are willing to change and adapt their practices to best meet their patients' needs, be more accountable, improve quality and reduce disparities. However, they will need significant support," says NCQA President Margaret E. O'Kane. "When considering how to implement health reform that will work for America, small practices need special attention."

The report, Supporting Small Practices: Lessons for Health Reform, identifies specific ways to address the challenges facing small practices including:

  • Training and development for physicians and staff on cultural competence, language needs, and quality improvement.

  • Tools, templates, and information resources, such as patient education materials in various languages, clinical practice guidelines, and templates for organizing medical information.

  • Shared services or staff to support interpreter needs, quality improvement initiatives, data management, and technical support.

  • Networking opportunities and learning "collaboratives" to hear from other practices, stakeholders and local, state, and national policy makers.

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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