Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Governor Bredesen Mentions the Memphis Effort in His Annual Address to the Legislature

Four years ago - Feburary, 2004 - Governor Phil Bredesen made note of a newly-formed collaboration between the Regional Medical Center in Memphis and Vanderbilt University. This collaboration led to the AHRQ initiative governed by the MidSouth eHealth Alliance and managed by the Vanderbilt Regional Informatics Group.

On January 28, 2008 the Governor returned to the Memphis project briefly in his address to the legislature.

He made two remarks that are relevant to the direct health care value of the Exchange as well as a way it may be used as part of the State's emergency preparedness efforts.

The Governor’s talk:


Security and preparedness. This is a bedrock responsibility of any Governor. This past summer Tennessee was named by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as one of the ten states in the nation to achieve their highest ranking for our disaster response plans. And we were one of eight states to get a perfect score--10 out of 10--from the Trust for America's Health for emergency preparedness. To David Mitchell and Jim Basham and Gus Hargett and Susan Cooper, and to all your supporters in the General Assembly, thank you.


Education, safety, jobs, employees. I'd like now to address the subject of health.
We have a lot of things underway in the health field.

I'm particularly proud of the efforts that our state is making to fight some of the underlying causes of serious health problems, particularly in the areas of obesity and smoking. This is the real frontier in public health, and we're starting to show some real successes here; the smoking rate in middle school has declined from 17% to 10% over the past year, for example. That 10% is still 10% too high.

We are also a national leader in e-health, in the use of electronic data and communication technology to maintain and make accessible to providers a person's health records. There are advantages to both the cost and quality of health care that flow from this use of technology. We have paid a great deal of attention to the privacy and security of these records as we have proceeded. The initiative we have developed in conjunction with Vanderbilt University in the greater Memphis area is frequently held up as one of the two or three top e-health efforts in the nation.

Friday, January 18, 2008

California HealthCare Foundation NHIN Report

On January 17, 2008, the California HealthCare Foundation released are report entitled: Gauging the Progress of the National Health Information Technology Initiative: Perspectives from the Field. Authored by Bruce Merlin Fried, a noted authority and past architect of the Clinton health plan and many other initiatives, the report draws its conclusions on the basis of interviews with nearly two dozen leaders and experts in health information technology. The report suggests that while the federal initiative has raised awareness about a number of important issues, NHIN has not produced the kind of fundamental changes needed to assure the realization of a nationwide EHR system.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

HHS / CMS ambulatory Care Initiatives

Last Fall, Secretary of HHS Michael Leavitt announced several initiatives to foster ambulatory care system adoption and use by small- and medium-sized practices. In addition to the certification initiatives designed to assure stability and value, the Federal Government has also announced several other important elements to ambulatory practice.

Little information is yet available on the latter pilot. The HHS page says:

CMS is developing a new demonstration initiative that aims to reward delivery of high-quality care supported by the adoption and use of electronic health records in physician practices. This initiative expands upon the foundation created by the Medicare Care Management Performance (MCMP) Demonstration. The goal of this 5-year demonstration is to foster the implementation and adoption of EHRs and health information technology (HIT) more broadly as effective vehicles not only to improve the quality of care provided, but also to transform the way medicine is practiced and delivered.

Additional documentation suggests that the program will be awarded through the Medicare waiver process. The goal would be to foster adoption and effective use in order to improve care quality and to transform medical practice and delivery. It is designed to leverage the force of private and public payers to drive physician practices to widespread adoption of EHRs.

Participating physicians will be required to have a certified CCHIT-EHR in the second year. They must demonstrate utilization of the EHR to support core functions that may include clinical documentation, laboratory testing, and prescription management. But the core incentive payment "will be based on performance on the quality measures, with an enhanced bonus on the degree of HIT functionality used to manage care."

The demonstration project is designed to be operational for five years. Year one payments wil be based on degree of use (and sophistication, including "sharing of records among providers of care") Payments will be determined by the Office Systems Survey. Payments in year two will depend also on reporting quality measures, and in outlying years will then be based on performance on the designated clinical quality measures with an "added bonus each year based on the degree to which the practice has used the EHR to change and improve the way it operates."

The Memphis, Tennesse area is one of many likely candidates for such a program within the state. It's attributes include:
  • A functioning data exchange involving all of the major hospitals and some major clinics (with records on 950,000 individuals)
  • A strong ASP provider base and experience with multiple platforms for ambulatory care including Allscripts, Cerner, eClinicalWorks, and NextGen.
  • A new program - NetTN to provide additional support for connectivity to practitioners
  • Strong support from State Government
With or without federal support, independent of political persuasions or philosophy, the challenges have moved beyond technical standards and now are more cultural and policy-driven. They include:
  • True connectivity with laboratories, pharmacies, and other providers
  • Data privacy and security
  • Data exchange operating policies
  • Meaningful transparency
  • A critical mass of data for appropriate alignment of incentives
  • Meaningful quality metrics
  • Comparable pricing and quality information
  • Patient engagement
There is sufficient momentum, this writer believes, to focus on key areas of concern and begin the challenging job of implementing and demonstrating value. These challenges are addressed primarily through local issues but also require support at the state and federal level.