An August 2007 report from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General assesses the health information technology (HIT) and health information exchange (HIE) initiatives of state Medicaid agencies. The report, entitled “State Medicaid Agencies’ Initiatives On Health Information Technology and Health Information Exchange” recommends that CMS continue to support the goals of the Medicaid Information Technology Architecture (MITA) initiative as part of their HIT planning; collaborate with other federal agencies and offices to assist state Medicaid agencies in developing privacy and security policies; and, continue to work with the Office of the National Coordinator for HIT to ensure that state Medicaid initiatives are consistent with national goals. CMS, in turn, noted that it concurs with all of HHS’s recommendations and goals and has already taken steps to implement them. In addition, it is working with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality on selecting a vendor to work with state Medicaid and children’s health insurance programs to expand their HIT and HIE involvement.
Click here to read the full report and HHS recommendations.
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A report from the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) entitled “Improving Patient Care: Pennsylvania Hospitals’ Use of Information Technology,” indicates that Pennsylvania hospitals lead the nation in wide adoption of health information technology (HIT). The report draws on findings from a December 2006 member survey conducted by the American Hospital Association (AHA) that measures the degree to which hospitals are utilizing HIT. Compared to similar healthcare providers nationwide, Pennsylvania hospitals use more HIT functions at a moderate or higher level. The AHA study defines HIT functions as the number of clinical IT functions a hospital has fully implemented. The report also states that Pennsylvania hospitals spend more on HIT per bed (capital spending and operating costs); use computerized order entry and electronic results review at higher levels; have more partially or fully implemented electronic health records; and, are ahead in the use of bar coding, electronic decision-support, RFID technology and sharing of clinical data. The report also states that the greatest barriers to wide HIT adoption are the initial costs and ongoing operating costs.
Click here to download a copy of the report.
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On July 11, the House Appropriations Committee passed the Health and Human Services Department appropriations bill (H.R. 3043), which includes $61.3 million for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to develop HIT standards, certification procedures and security protocols. This is the same amount made available last year and $56.6 million less than President Bush’s $117.9 million request for 2008 health IT spending.
The Committee cited the ONC’s lack of progress toward fulfilling the General Accounting Offices 2005 recommendations as the reason for not increasing the ONC budget. The committee also requested that HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt submit an implementation plan for HIT to both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees that includes performance benchmarks, milestones and timelines for achieving program objectives, as well as the submission for public scrutiny of a privacy and security framework to establish trust among health information exchange users.
Click here to read the full report.
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In a bold move toward ultimate transparency in healthcare, New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), one of the largest health systems in America, now posts online death and infection rates on 11 of its hospitals. Rates are broken into categories that include heart attack and heart failure, preventable infections, pneumonia and long-term nursing care, among others. The hospital specific Web-based charts display the comparisons of HHC hospitals against other New York state hospitals, as well as against the national average, which is derived from CMS (Medicare/Medicaid) or AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) data.
The move is somewhat motivated by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s focus on public health as a political component of his administration, as well as by the state’s passage of law in 2005 requiring hospitals to report such rates of certain infections to New York’s Health Department. It brings transparency to New York’s public hospital system, and, according to HHC President Alan D. Aviles, enables consumers to shop for healthcare based on quality measures established by state and federal agencies.
The HHC hospitals include Bellevue, Coney Island, Elmhurst, Harlem, Jacobi, Kings County, Lincoln, Metropolitan, North Central Bronx, Queens and Woodhull.
Click here to visit the HHC Web site.
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Amidst controversy, Minnesotans soon will be able to electronically exchange health information statewide between patients, doctors and payers, says state Governor Tim Pawlenty. Intending to provide doctors with quick, secure access to patient medical records during emergencies or routine care, various Minnesota public and private healthcare organizations cooperated to produce the nation’s first public/private nonprofit corporation dedicated to such a purpose, and which draws on existing databases of patient information. No new database is created. Seed money from the founding organizations and subscriber fees will fund the health information exchange (HIE), with any annual excess revenue going to development of future electronic services.
Twila Brase, president of Citizens’ Council on Health Care (CCHC), criticized the HIE as posing a threat to patient privacy. In a press release posted on the CCHC Web site, Brase expresses concern that access to patient records by Minnesota’s government will interfere with patient/provider relationships and may reduce patient confidence in the privacy of their medical records. Brase also notes that although in 2003 the Minnesota Department of Health was blocked from implementing a proposed data-collection rule, the law itself was not repealed. Leaving it on the books, according to Brase, enables Minnesota’s government to access private patient health records without first obtaining the patient’s consent, even under HIPAA.
Click here to read more about the Minnesota HIE from the state’s Web site.
Click here to access read Brase’s latest press release on the CCHC Web site.
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