Bill Introduced in the House

Representative Diane Black (R-TN) introduced the “Electronic Health Record Improvement Act” (H.R. 131) to make some changes related to meaningful use requirements. The provisions of the bill would affect the requirements that would be needed to establish meaningful use.

The bill would:

  • Enable eligible professionals in a solo practice or near retirement age to be exempt for three years for  Medicare payment penalties for not demonstrating EHR meaningful use
  • Enable Medicaid meaningful users to be exempt from payment penalties
  • Shorten the EHR reporting period to apply Medicare EHR payment for eligible professionals
  • Provide for alternative meaningful use criteria for eligible professionals that utilize EHRs and specialty registry systems
  • Make it possible to use specialty registries to help specialists meet quality measures
  • Enable rural healthcare providers to be eligible for meaningful use
  • Improve EHR meaningful use under Medicare by eligible professionals who practice in ambulatory surgical centers
  • Provide for additional exceptions to applying for Medicare adjustment for certain Medicare and hospital-based eligible professionals not demonstrating EHR meaningful use
  • Develop an appeal process before penalties are applied

 

The bill would require that reports be submitted that describe the improvements made in streamlining requirements under Medicare, improvements that certified technology vendors have made in interoperability, the progress that has be made on the adoption of certified EHR technology, how effectively reporting systems are operating, and make recommendations on how to make regulations more interactive with EHR technology.

 

 

 

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CCHP Scans State Telehealth Issues

Mario Gutierrez, Executive Director of the Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP) put the spotlight on CCHP’s new information available at www.telehealthpolicy.us that scans and analyzes state telehealth laws and regulations for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. He spoke at a recent “Alliance for Health Reform” event “The Healthcare Workforce: Prescription for the Future” held March 22, 2013.

He noted that the CCHP report basically found that there are no uniform policies across states and states should explore telehealth policy with contiguous states. Secondly, telehealth is not being utilized to its fullest potential and states should promote policies that incentivize use of the technology. Thirdly, since federal policies influence states and their policies, federal agencies should expand policies and encourage states to do the same.

(more…)

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HHSignite (beta) Launched

HHSignite (beta), an internal competitive seed-funding opportunity to test new and unconventional ideas at HHS was just launched to gain evidence for solutions to challenges. The program hopes to support up to 8 innovative concepts with budgets of $10,000 or less that can be completed within 6 months.

HHS is looking for early steps of concepts that are entirely new to the agency that support the Secretary’s priorities. Proposals can also go towards a process already underway but looking to take an unconventional next step.

In addition to the funds, HHSignite teams will be able to consult with HHS leaders, be introduced to HHSentreprenuers, a program that pairs innovative employees with experts outside of government to tackle difficult problems, and interact with top innovators at HHS. Awardees will also be exposed to flexible approaches in problem solving.

The program is looking for projects such as:

  • New or improved program/operations/scientific processes such as streamlining the grant application or contracting process, or new tools or methods to help HHS comply with operational standards and laws
  • New or significantly improved technologies to help HHS or stakeholders
  • New or enhanced collaborative partnerships to expand relationships with federal or non-federal partners
  • New or improved methods to disseminate information
  • New or improved methods for developing the workforce such as using distance learning and webcasts
  • New or improved ways to help HHS meet public health and sustainability goals

 

HHSignite (beta) is open to all HHS employees and the teams may include individuals from outside of HHS or government. However, project leads must be full time employees with HHS.

HHSignite (beta) was launched March 19, 2013 with May 15, 2013 the last day to submit a proposal. Go to www.hhs.gov/open/initiatives/ignite/index.html for more information.

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Caring for Dementia Patients

In a partnership with the Veterans Administration’s medical centers and local Alzheimer’s Association chapters in Boston and Houston set up a five year trial so that two person care coordinator teams could provide telephone-based support to patients with dementia and their caregivers over a 12 month period. The VA serves more than 570,000 veterans with dementia.

The trial served veterans mostly male averaging 60 and older with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, or other dementia. The teams addressed medical and nonmedical needs through education, coaching, links to needed resources, and mobilization of an informal care network known as “Partners in Dementia Care”. (more…)

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Bills Introduced on the Hill

Several pieces of legislation have been introduced to improve care for diabetic patients. Senators Jeanne Shakeen (D-NH) and Diabetes Caucus Co-Chair along with Susan Collins (R-ME) have introduced new legislation to establish a commission of healthcare experts to advance diabetes care and prevention.

The bill titled the “National Diabetes Clinical Care Commission Care Act” (S-539) would bring together public and private sector experts in diabetes research and treatment to offer insight in improving clinical care for diabetic patients. (more…)

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FirstNet Discussed on the Hill

“The First Responder Network (FirstNet) model represents a significant step forward from the traditional model for public safety communications”, said Samuel Ginn, Chairman of FirstNet’s Authority Board appearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. “Instead of having thousands of individual, dedicated, stand-alone public safety systems built for law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services agencies, FirstNet will be an integrated nationwide public safety network.”

FirstNet is going to cover all of the states and territories and will need to serve more than 60,000 state, tribal, local, and federal public safety entities. To meet coverage requirements, the network will require tens of thousands of cell sites, a large core network, and secure satellite coverage for the hardest-to-serve areas.

FirstNet’s goal is to design and deploy a cutting-edge wireless broadband network to serve first responders and the public safety community with reliable, interoperable, wireless services, applications, and user devices at the lowest possible fees.

FirstNet will be the only network ever built entirely to meet public safety level specifications for security and reliability. The network will also be the only network to cover an entire nation geographically as opposed to coverage by population centers.

So far, some preliminary activities include:

  • Building an organization and management team
  • Executing an aggressive consultation and outreach strategy
  • Conducting  market research on terrestrial and satellite wireless carriers to identify optimal financial and operational deployment alternatives for the public safety network
  • Conducting business and financial modeling for the various network deployment scenarios
  • Evaluating network engineering technologies and potential network designs
  • Working with standards-setting bodies to ensure public safety critical communications elements are included in the standards
  • Performing network coverage planning and engineering activities
  • Establishing standard operating procedures in consultation with public safety entities
  • Working with network operators to ensure local control and incident response

 

FirstNet has structured their Public Safety Advisory Committee comprised of state, tribal and local organizations. The first face-to-face meeting is expected to take place in April. The Advisory Committee’s leadership will be presenters at conferences and act as advocates conducting direct outreach and soliciting feedback.

 

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IT Moving Ahead in Virginia

The State of Virginia’s Information Technology Agency (VITA) is responsible for operating the IT infrastructure, handling information security programs, developing public safety and related technology, and procuring IT with 100 plus ready to use VITA contracts. VITA has been working with Northrop Grumman to modernize Virginia’s technology infrastructure.

The state used funding from ARRA to plan for a health information exchange. When the Federal administration ruled that states could utilize a 90 percent administrative match through Medicaid to fund infrastructure and eligibility systems, the Virginia General Assembly in 2011 provided state funding to build the Service Oriented Architecture infrastructure necessary for modernization and interoperability.

The eHHR program was established by the state’s Health and Human Resources Secretariat. The eHHR program oversees Virginia’s health IT and the Medicaid Information Technology Architecture (MITA). Ongoing efforts are to have the technology ready needed to modernize and transform how agencies collect, use, and share vital data. The initial focus is on interoperability but later phases are going to enable broader uses for technology.

Last year over 2.3 million applications for Medicaid and SNAP services were processed. The state had an error rate on Medicaid applications that needed to be addressed. A combination of factors meant that the state needed to begin to rethink the basic task of eligibility determination and enrollment. This resulted in an eligibility modernization contract being awarded and a program-related website set up at http://ehhr.virginia.gov.

The eHHR program is up and running with some projects in process. Phases 1 & 2 of the Customer Portal have already successfully been completed. Work is progressing to provide interoperability between the Virginia Department of Health and the state laboratories. eHHR is moving forward with procurement for the Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) system, and care management systems are being initiated to address VDH Birth, Death, and Immunization.

The eHHR Program is designed to manage the state’s HIE called “ConnectVirginia”. So far, the DIRECT Messaging system is in place and “ConnectVirginia” is continuing to work on several issues that arose during the process to onboard and test the first node with Inova Health System.

VITA’s Shared Services monthly meeting is held so that meeting participants can stay informed and collaboratively work to onboard the state agency node to “ConnectVirginia”. Also, VITA’s Monitoring Subcommittee for the Virginia Rx Drug Abuse Reduction Workgroup is examining opportunities to enable interaction between Virginia’s Prescription Monitoring Program and ConnectVirginia.

As teams address various technology issues, the HIE’s Governing Board is focusing on future governance and sustainability. The sustainability committee continues to meet to identify funding and cost models to ensure HIE’s operations beyond the Federal funding period.

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