The National Committee for Quality Assurance and the American Board of Internal Medicine may have taken a major step toward automating physicians’ offices.

The ABIM, Philadelphia, has agreed to build physician practice standards developed by the NCQA, Washington, into the certification renewal standards for board-certified internists.

The ABIM has certified 180,000 internists, and about 12,000 of those internists apply for “maintenance of certification” each year.

ABIM-certified internists must apply to maintain their certification every 10 years, according to the NCQA.

The NCQA, a major managed care standards group, says there are now 124 group practices that have adopted the NCQA physician practice standards. Those group practices represent about 1,400 physicians, the NCQA estimates.

The NCQA physician practice standards call on physician practices to “use electronic systems to gather information about patients, maintain patient records, provide decision support, enter orders for prescriptions and lab tests and provide automated reminders about services or tests that patients need.”

The NCQA standards also encourage practices to “use electronic systems that interoperate with other systems using nationally accepted code sets to send, receive and integrate data such as test results from other organizations’ systems.”