April 20, 2010

Newsletter Contents

  • Dr. Donald Berwick Nominated for Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
  • Bill Introduced in the House to Expand Health IT Funding to Community Behavioral Health Centers
  • AHRQ 2009 Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report and the HHS Secretary’s Plan on Health Disparities
  • California Healthcare Foundation Survey Report on Consumers and HIT
  • Senate Committee Reviews FCC’s National Broadband Plan
  • Health IT Working For You
  • Upcoming Events

  • Dr. Donald Berwick Nominated for Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

    On Monday, President Obama nominated Dr. Donald Berwick to head CMS. If confirmed, Dr. Berwick will oversee and execute two of the Obama Administration’s ambitious healthcare moves to date: the expansion of Medicaid in 2014 to nearly 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured; and the delivery of a final rule on meaningful use of HIT which will distribute incentive payments to physicians and hospitals who implement EHRs meaningfully. All the while, steering the administration’s goal to establish and utilize EHRs for every American by 2014. Dr. Berwick is no stranger to taking the executive role and or leading the cause for the improvement in healthcare quality. He is currently the president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, and a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health.

    Bill Introduced in the House to Expand Health IT Funding to Community Behavioral Health Centers

    Last week, Representatives Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Tim Murphy (R-PA) introduced a bill, Health Information Technology Extension for Behavioral Health Services Act of 2010, which would expand the impending EHR incentive payments to previously ineligible community behavioral health providers and organizations, including: behavioral and mental health professionals, psychiatric hospitals, behavioral and mental health treatment facilities, and substance abuse treatment facilities. Representatives Tim Murphy (R-PA), Gene Green (D-TX), and Alcee Hastings (D-FL) are also original co-sponsors for this bill. Currently mental and behavioral health providers are excluded from receiving EHR payment incentives through ARRA. Click here to read an official statement from Rep. Kennedy and click here to urge your elected official to support this bill.

    AHRQ 2009 Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report and the HHS Secretary’s Plan on Health Disparities

    Last week the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality released their annual findings which measure trends in effectiveness of care, patient safety, timeliness of care, patient centeredness, and efficiency of care. The report does mention the need for providers to be trained to use HIT as a tool to enhance the quality of care for all patients. Some of the key themes to come out of the 2009 report include:

    • Quality is improving, but the pace is slow, especially for preventive care and chronic disease management;
    • Health care quality needs to be improved, particularly for uninsured individuals, who are less likely to get recommended care;
    • Disparities are common and uninsurance is an important contributor;
    • Many disparities are not decreasing.

    Both reports can be reviewed here. In response to the recent findings from AHRQ, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has announced that the agency will develop a national plan of action focused on reducing health disparities between communities of color and white populations. No timeline for the plan has been released.

    California Healthcare Foundation Survey Report on Consumers and HIT

    Last week, the California Healthcare Foundation released findings from their latest survey, Consumers and Health Information Technology: A National Survey. The results indicated that although higher-income individuals were the most likely to have used a personal health record (PHR), lower-income adults, those with chronic conditions, and those without a college degree were more likely to experience positive effects of having their information accessible online. Key findings such as this one further support the need for HIT as tool to improve health outcomes, especially after reports from CMS earlier this year which showed that the U.S. spent nearly $2.3 trillion on healthcare, with 75% of that being spent to treat and care for chronic conditions. The report further indicated that PHRs provide access and convenience to one’s own health information, while also facilitating communication with healthcare providers. Click here to read more findings from the survey report.

    Senate Committee Reviews FCC’s National Broadband Plan

    On April 14th, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing to review the FCC’s National Broadband Plan. In the face of a setback dealt by the Supreme Court’s decision on Net Neutrality, Chairman Julius Genachowski of the FCC presented the FCC’s plan to the Senate, as he had done a month earlier to the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet. Their agenda aims to close the “digital gap” ensuring that every community has affordable access to robust broadband service, as well as the means and skill to subscribe to that broadband service. John Rockefeller (D-WV) voiced his unwavering support of the plan, explaining that “In this new century, universal broadband service is the promise of a fair shot at economic opportunity. It is the promise of educational equality and affordable health care. And it opens the door to participate in our democratic dialogue with dignity, no matter who you are or where you live. I am going to challenge the FCC to make the hard choices that will help bring broadband to every corner of this country. Putting ideas on paper is not enough. Just seeking comment on a slew of issues is not enough. It’s action that counts.”

    Health IT Working For You
    • Lessons From A Health Information Technology Demonstration In New York Nursing Homes – This case study from the Commonwealth Fund examines the New York State Nursing Home Health Information Technology Demonstration Project, and found that the 20 participating homes successfully replaced paper records with electronic ones, and, after the intensive pre-implementation planning period, it took less than six months on average for facilities to make this transition. The authors attribute the success, in part, to an innovative union–employer partnership. Click here to read more about this successful case study.
    • Closing the Digital Divide One Community at a Time – Local community advocates, the Ministerial Alliance Against the Digital Divide (MAADD), recently urged the Illinois Attorney General, the Governor and Illinois lawmakers to swiftly pass House Bill 6425, the Consumer Choice Act, into law. This piece of legislation will greatly benefit low income and minority communities by building and investing in a much needed broadband infrastructure. MAADD believes that an investment in broadband gives their communities a chance to keep up, and not get left behind regarding existing opportunities involving broadband. Further, they believe that investing in a broadband infrastructure in these communities will enable access to healthcare, education, and jobs especially for their underserved populations. Click here to learn more about MAADD
    • California Innovation in Telemedicine and Telehealth – Cisco Systems is initiating a two-year California Telemedicine Pilot Project at 15 sites in the state of California. The overall goal of the project is to provide health and wellness services to both underserved and underinsured communities throughout the state. AT&T has partnered with the University of California Davis Heath System, and the University of California Office of the president to develop a telecommunications system with the goal of improving health care access for rural and medically underserved areas of the state and providing a new resource for distance learning, emergency services and disaster preparedness. The project is funded by the FCC.
    • Text4Baby – Since its start in February 2010, more than 10,000 pregnant women and young mothers have signed up to receive free text messages with medical tips and reminders three times a week. The success of projects like this one display another benefit and utility of HIT, especially with a growing population who relies so heavily on the use of mobile devices. The project is sponsored by the National Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition, along with the White House, Health and Human Services Department, and other health and telecommunications industry members. Click here to read more about Text4Baby.

    Upcoming Events
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