The American Medical Association is making a big leap into accreditation--that is, rating physicians on quality.
The Chicago-based physician trade association expects to unveil its seal of approval for physicians this summer, starting in Massachusetts.
Universal accreditation of individual physicians is bound to be a gargantuan, highly complex task. Moreover, skepticism abounds about whether physicians can rate themselves.
Despite those issues, the AMA is forging ahead. Recently it sent a draft version of its accreditation standards to 1,500 interested parties, including health plans, medical societies and business coalitions.
"It's part of our status as professionals to set standards and then to manage those standards," said Randolph Smoak Jr., M.D., the AMA's secretary/treasurer who chairs the governing body of the new program.
The AMA's American Medical Accreditation Program is attempting to standardize physician credentialing performed by hospitals and health plans in order to reduce paperwork for doctors and medical groups. The AMA's program calls for "portfolios" of credentialing information that will be available for a fee.
To be accredited, physicians must meet a set of required criteria, such as a medical degree and completion of a practice assessment scored by a third party.
They also must fulfill a certain number of supplemental criteria, such as continuing medical education credits, board certification and no record of disciplinary action .
Those who meet the standards will receive a certificate to hang on the wall and a seal posted on the AMA World Wide Web site.
Fees have not been set, but physicians can expect to pay $50 to $100 to participate, with a discount for AMA members. Most of the anticipated revenues would come from health plans and hospitals, which would be charged about $200 per physician to access information, with possible volume discounts.
After Massachusetts, the program is slated to start in Alabama and New Jersey, with eventual expansion nationwide. The AMA plans to add clinical performance and outcomes criteria in a few years.
Initially, the AMA must demonstrate it will save money and provide adequate information for organizations that do credentialing. Physicians in California, Oregon and Washington recently launched programs to streamline credentialing, but only after collaborating with health plans and hospitals. Bo Piela, communications director for the Massachusetts Association of HMOs, said his members are "a bit nervous" about yielding responsibility for credentialing.
Also, the AMA must instill credibility in its accreditation. It has tried to do this by appointing nonphysicians to the governing body that oversees the program.