Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Draft Health Plan Released

Maine’s 2008-2009 Draft State Health Plan was recently released. The plan stresses how important it is for individuals to be able to make wise healthcare decisions along with the immediate need to have an efficient and effective delivery system.

Providing for an electronic health information system was addressed in the plan since only 15% of physician practices use electronic medical records in the state. Some of the reasons for not using EMRs include costs, difficulty in using technology, constant changes in technology, and the need to protect patient privacy. Also, there is a lack of broadband in some parts of Maine but the recent FCC awards should address the problem in northern and western Maine.

HealthINfoNet (HIN) a new non-profit is working hard to build a health information superhighway. Starting in 2008, more than 2,000 healthcare providers, including 15 rural and urban hospitals across Maine and one-third of practicing physicians in Maine will join with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention in a major 24 month demonstration of the new network. Hospital and physician practices in the pilot program, account for more than half of the state’s annual inpatient hospital admissions and nearly 40% of Maine’s outpatient visits each year.

Following the demonstration phase, plans call for HIN to expand to include providers who care for Maine’s 1.3 million residents. However, the completion of the final pilot requires some additional revenues and the state is challenged to find the resources needed to complete the work.

As of this date, the legislature’s HHS committee is deliberating whether to create a stakeholder workgroup to address the financing issue. If this does happen, the stakeholders would look into the options available to finance the expansion of electronic health information exchange in the state and work with the Governor’s office to explore additional financing in 2009. In addition, the workgroup would explore the offerings by several hardware and software EMR vendors to provide no cost or low cost equipment and software to physicians by December 2008.

The draft report makes several suggestions on dealing with healthcare acquired infections. Some of the suggestions are to improve the dissemination of information, make hospital specific data on health acquired infections viewable on the Maine Quality Forum website, develop a hospital infection control collaborative, share resources for infection control and outbreak analysis, develop standards for hospital infection control and prevention, and explore other reporting options such as the National Healthcare Safety Network supported by CDC.

Each year the Department of Health and Human Services has reported to the Maine State Legislature on progress being made in the state’s health facilities using the sentinel event reporting system. This year’s report concluded that the state significantly under reports sentinel events and recommends that changes be made to the statutory language to reduce ambiguity about what must be reported. Also, the DHHS Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services will convene a stakeholder workgroup to review the current system and provide a report by November 2008.

To download the draft health plan, go to