Sunday, April 11, 2010

HHS Secretary Speaks at NPC

“The future of healthcare is in practice at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital” reports HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius after a recent tour of the medical center. The Secretary saw firsthand how patient-centered care and the use of information technology can translate into high quality healthcare. Sebelius a Cincinnati native, visiting the hospital on April 5th at the invitation of the President and CEO Michael Fisher, said she was impressed how technology in the hospital enables patients and families to address their care needs.

The Secretary speaking the next day at a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. reported that the Cincinnati hospital deals with some of the sickest children not only in the Ohio region, but also with children from all over the country and from international sources because they are renowned for doing some very complicated surgeries.

At one stop on the hospital tour, she saw a baby not quite two months old who was born prematurely and still staying in the newborn intensive care unit. She saw how the nurses used bar codes on the baby and on themselves to check on the infant and also to make sure that the right doses of medications were given at the right time.

The hospital reports that since the hospital put their EHR system in place they have gone over 1,000 days without a serious incident in their Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. This has been accomplished by using an automated checklist appearing at every incubator, at every crib, to remind providers of the various steps that need to be taken to keep the hospital setting as safe and secure as possible.

During her stop at the outpatient clinic, the Secretary discussed how effectively online access to medical records is working. A mother in the clinic said that instead of bothering doctors and nurses with questions, she can use the internet access to the hospital’s databases to learn how to take care of her daughter. She said that if the has questions, she can send emails and hear back the same day with an answer. Secretary Sebelius said she was glad to hear that ownership of the medical records resided with the patient and not with the hospital.

The hospital is very concerned with making surgery safer and to greatly reduce the number of medical errors. The hospital’s pediatric cardiac surgery team not only uses checklists but also videotapes every surgery. They are looking not just for errors or near misses but for any unexpected events, no matter how small.

At the luncheon, the Secretary announced that the last round of the health information technology grants for $267 million funded by the Recovery Act was awarded to 28 additional non-profit organizations to establish HIT Regional Extension Centers (REC). This round of awards brings the total number of RECs to 60 and will provide nationwide outreach and technical support services to at least 100,000 primary care providers and hospitals within two years.

She explained that if a small provider group or a doctor’s office wants to switch to electronic records, they will now have a health extension center close at hand and boots on the ground to help them implement new strategies, be able to get expert advice, and technical assistance if needed.

The Secretary also announced that this is the first time HHS has released Medicare data in what the agency is calling their “Medicare Dashboard”. This online tool now makes it much easier for Americans to search and sort aggregate Medicare data with full protections of patient privacy. The agency also has launched Medicare’s inpatient hospital data where the user is able to sort data by state, by condition, and by hospital which makes it possible for the first time to make price comparisons