Sunday, May 22, 2011

HIT Strategy Discussed

According to Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Assistant to the President, and Associate Director for Technology within OSTP, the federal government needs to invest in innovation, healthcare workforce, and infrastructure including digital, while at the same time, emphasizing entrepreneurship.

As one of the speakers at the May 17th Brookings event “Health IT in an Era of Accountable Care: Update from the Beacon Communities” convened by the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform in collaboration with the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, he told the attendees, that providers with a need for specific tools and products are in a position to approach the best companies for any tools that they might need. Since billions of dollars are flowing into the healthcare marketplace, companies all over the country are ready and able to supply exactly what providers need at the best price possible.

He emphasized how health IT plays an important role in the Beacon Community Program. For example, the Southern Piedmont Beacon Community (SPBC) and their Care Plan is one of 14 regional healthcare partnerships in North Carolina established to improve the quality of care for Medicaid recipients while managing costs. This region has impressive EHR adoption with three nonprofit hospitals, VA hospitals, and close to 60 percent of the ambulatory care physicians in the area using EHRs.

The SPBC is using health IT and HIE to really make a difference in the region’s communities especially in treating asthma. Currently, SPBC is using text messaging inhalers with GPS tracking capabilities, coupled with smart phones, and web-based applications to help 2,000 asthma patients better manage their conditions.

SPBC is not only able to receive valuable information on patients with asthma, but able to analyze and see patterns from the information and data collected especially concerning environmental patterns. In addition, school nurses are monitoring students who have asthma and then sending the updates to the child’s primary care provider.

In addition, specialized software notifies care managers when patients are due to be discharged so that a smooth transition can be made from the hospital to the home or to another healthcare setting. Care managers and nurse practitioners, equipped with laptops have access to EHRs and other patient information when they make home visits to the patients. These visits are made within three days following the patient’s hospital discharge to see if they have the correct medications and instructions.

As the National Coordination for HIT, Farzad Mostashari, MD, pointed out the need for the U.S. to set goals, address HIT needs, and at the same time, develop a workable strategy to implement the technology. Many providers want to adopt technology to deliver patient centered care and fortunately there is help available through the Beacon Community program and Regional Extension Centers.

Joe McCannon, Senior Advisor to the Administrator at CMS announced three new initiatives made possible by the Affordable Care Act to help doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers become Accountable Care Organizations.

First, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation Center is supporting a new ACO model to be available to providers this summer. The “Pioneer ACO Model” will help organizations participate in shared savings with expectations that it will save Medicare up to $430 million over three years.

CMS just announced a “Request for Applications” (RFA) for organizations to participate in the “Pioneer ACO Model” beginning in 2011 and ending 2016. The Federal Register Announcement on the ACO model appeared May 20th with letters of intent due June 10, 2011 and applications due by July 19, 2011. To be eligible, organizations would ideally already be coordinating care for a significant portion of their patients and positioned to transform their care and financial models from fee-for-service to a value based model.

Secondly, the Innovation Center is offering “ACO Accelerated Development Learning Sessions” to provide executive leadership teams to teach essential ACO functions, ways to build the capacity needed to achieve better care, better health, and to lower costs using integrated care models. Four learning sessions will be held in 2011, with the first session scheduled for June 20-22, 2011 in Minneapolis Minnesota. The plenary session will be available to all interested organizations via a webcast.

The third Innovation Center initiative is seeking comments until June 17, 2011 on an “ACO Advance Payment” initiative that would provide additional up-front funding to providers to support the formation of new ACOs. The objective is to test whether and if pre-paying a portion of future shared saving could increase participation in the Medicare Shared Savings Program.

McCannon also mentioned the new measures in the “Partnership for Patients” campaign. One measure is to reduce preventable hospital-acquired conditions by 40 percent by the end of 2013 and the second measure is to reduce hospital readmissions by 20 percent by the end of 2013. As he explained, successful implementation could save as much as $35 billion to the healthcare system including up to $10 billion in Medicare savings.