MGMA Meeting: New Online Tool Offers Risk Assessment for Small Practices

LAS VEGAS—A new online tool will allow office-based physician practices to examine their medical processes and protocols for potential risks to patient safety and create a benchmarking database for ambulatory care.

The program, called the Physician Practice Patient Safety Assessment, launched last week at, according to its creator, the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). MGMA officials unveiled the project here yesterday at the organization's annual meeting.

Practices, whether MGMA members or not, can download a PDF version to fill out the assessment on paper. For $200, they can complete the questionnaire online, submit the results to a central database, and receive aggregated scores from other practices for comparison.

As launched, the tool queries practice administrators on about 80 items across five domains: medications; handoffs and transitions; surgery and anesthesia; staff qualifications; and communication with and education of patients. A sample question on the Web site asks whether a practice has a system for confirming and recording discharge information when a patient is discharged from a hospital.

According to the MGMA, the tool is intended to help practices identify areas in need of improvement, set a baseline to measure future progress, minimize exposure to malpractice liability, and, above all, deliver better care.

MGMA chief executive William F. Jessee, M.D., said that the MGMA has had "conversations" with a small number of medical liability insurers about the possibility of reducing premiums to practices that can demonstrate excellence. Jessee declined to comment on whether any insurer was ready to start offering discounts.

He added, however, that the organization's legal counsel raised the possibility that the self-assessments may raise liability issues for some practices. Jessee advised practices to take self-assessment results seriously and actively address any problems.

The launch follows a test of the system by more than 200 physician practices earlier this year, courtesy of a grant from the Commonwealth Fund, a New York City-based healthcare philanthropy. Also participating in the development of the safety assessment were the Health Research and Educational Trust—a research affiliate of the American Hospital Association—and the Institute for Safe Medication Practices.

The groups plan on expanding the assessment by asking practice managers what other sorts of safety-related clues they hope to discover in their practices and by using the benchmarking data to implement new safety measures. "The next step is to make available a large amount of tools," says MGMA senior fellow Terry Hammons, M.D.

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