Saturday, April 18, 2009

VMC Looking Ahead

The Vanderbilt Medical Center (VMC) helped establish one of the first health information technology demonstration projects called the MidSouth eHealth Alliance to link several hospitals, emergency departments, and ambulatory clinics in the Memphis area. Mark Frisse, M.D. Director of Regional Informatics Programs in the Vanderbilt Center for Better Health helped develop and oversees the project funded by AHRQ and the state of Tennessee.

A major piece of the stimulus package is the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. VMC is looking towards HITECH to help continue to make electronic innovations in the healthcare field. Also, Bill Stead, M.D., Director of VMC’s Informatics Center, has been nominated to serve on the Health Information Technology Policy Committee to help make recommendations for implementing the HITECH Act.

Stimulus funding is expected to further help developments in effectiveness research by using electronic health data and other methods to evaluate different medical treatments, including surgery and drug therapy. $1.1 billion will go to HHS for this purpose.

As for effectiveness research at VMC, at least three AHRQ supported projects are currently underway. Marie Griffin, M.D., is a principal investigator in the national “Developing Evidence to Inform Decisions about Effectiveness Research Network” set in motion to conduct accelerated practical studies about the outcomes, comparative clinical effectiveness, safety, and appropriateness of healthcare items and services.

In addition, other centers at VMC are involved in the effectiveness research program. Wayne Ray Ph.D directs the AHRQ Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics, a program to increase the awareness through education and research on the benefits and risks for new, existing, or combined uses of therapeutics emphasizing vulnerable populations.

In another program, Katherine Hartmann, M.D. PhD is leading an AHRQ Evidence-based Practice Center with the purpose to review scientific literature on clinical, behavioral, organization, and financing topics and to produce reports and technology assessments.

Officials at VMC expect to receive an additional share of stimulus funds for research through NIH and other federal agencies. In the last 10 years, VMC has tripled their annual amount of research funding that the school received from all of their sources, and this has amounted to more than $400 million in 2008, even with several years of flat NIH budgets.

Beginning in 2011 and continuing for five years, VMC will receive higher reimbursement rates from Medicare and Medicaid due to its use of health information technology. Also, Vine Hill and other community clinics affiliated with the Vanderbilt School of Nursing are expected to receive a share of the $2 billion from HRSA to spend on health center renovations and technology upgrades.

VMC is expected to provide as much as $290 million in charges in uncompensated care in the current fiscal year, an increase of more than $40 million as compared to fiscal year 2008. Stimulus funding should help ease that burden by providing Tennessee with a temporary increase in the federal match for Medicaid payments, estimated at $1.1 billion through December 2010.

Although Governor Phil Bredesen has recommended cutting the state’s appropriation for TennCare in the next fiscal year (2009-2010), but with stimulus funds, the total TennCare budget proposed for next year could grow by about 3 percent to $7.6 million.