News from NIH

The NIH Brain Initiative launched with $100 million is going to focus on revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain. By accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies, researchers will be able to produce a revolutionary new dynamic picture of the brain that will show how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space.

Understanding the brain enables the human body to record, process, utilize, store, and retrieve vast quantities of information all at the speed of thought. NIH intends to allocate $40 million for the initiative in FY14 and collaborate closely with DARPA and NSF. (more…)

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Illinois Funding Pilot Program

Governor of Illinois Pat Quinn announced funding for $750,000 to develop a pilot program to help workers in the state receive training in healthcare. The State is working in partnership with the National Latino Education Institute, a not-for-profit community services organization that provides quality job training, education, and employment services.

The state’s investment will help a not-for-profit organization called New Start, Inc. offer a Northern Illinois Regional Certified Nursing Assistance (NIRCNA) training program in Latino communities in the state. New Start has been implementing workforce training for over 40 years.

The new funding will enable New Start to offer the NIRCNA training program at the National Latino Education Institute in Chicago which will provide training in Cook and surrounding counties. The funding will also enable the Central Illinois Regional Certified Nursing Assistant (CIRCNA) training program to be given at New Start’s Springfield Illinois office so that training can be provided in other counties in the state.

The Governor has also directed the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to lead a Health Care Workforce workgroup to recommend steps that the state needs to take to fill thousands of new healthcare jobs. The workgroup will assess and plan for jobs to meet the health needs of the state’s growing, increasingly diverse, and aging population.

The workgroup will assess the existing healthcare workforce landscape and analyze the gaps that need to be filled both for current needs and the impending demand that will be apparent once hundreds of thousands of people gain access to health coverage as of January 1, 2014. The workgroup will recommend a workforce action plan by September 2013 to immediately address any gaps that are needed to strengthen training and education for healthcare jobs.The workgroup not only includes IDPH, but also departments of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, Healthcare & Family Services, Aging, Financial & Professional Regulation, Employment Securities, Veteran’s Affairs, Human Services, and Children & Family Services. Support is also available from the University of Illinois (Chicago) School of Medicine and from external stakeholders as needed.

In addition, the Illinois Workforce Investment Board just voted again to set up a Health Care Taskforce to develop a long-term strategic plan to maintain a sustainable labor force in the state. The taskforce will allow for broader stakeholder engagement and build upon the current work of the Illinois Pathways and Health Sciences STEM Learning Exchange.

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Telehealth Growing at the VA

The Veterans Administration is making good use of Clinical Video Telehealth (CVT) in new ways at VA’s Butler Healthcare System located in Pennsylvania. Several new programs are in effect. They include working with the Louis A. Johnson Medical Center in Clarksburg West Virginia to assist veterans with limb amputations with concerns related to fitting and other issues, assisting veterans receiving blood thinning products at the Mercer and Laurence Community-based outpatient clinics, and diagnosing treatments needed for speech language cognitive programs.

The Minnesota VA received over $200,000 in grants to improve emergency healthcare services for women and to offer more telehealth services. Several examples of specialized services include telepharmacy using video conferencing to provide pharmacotherapy, and support for the Maternity Care Coordination Telehealth pilot project located in Greater Los Angeles.

The VA Boston Healthcare System (VA-BHS) actively involved in telehealth is now adding more clinical options for patients to use. Right now VA-BHS offers telehealth to deliver services in radiology, mental health, spinal cord injury, nutrition, vascular surgery, allergy issues, orthopedic surgery, amputation care, dermatology and retinal imaging. In addition, many of the outpatient clinics are establishing a CVT based relationship to deliver and coordinate other clinical specialties to include home-based primary care and teleaudiology.

Since many veterans live in rural areas, the Veterans Rural Health Resource Center-Eastern Region is collaborating with the Lake City VAMC Spinal Cord Injury and Disorders Clinic to provide veterans with ALS a new care coordination program that involves telerehabilitation and telemedicine to help veterans in Northern Florida and in the Georgia Veterans Health System.

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Cogmed Improves Memory

Cogmed Working Memory Training is a computer-based cognitive training program for children and adults who need to improve their working memory. The University of California at the Davis MIND Institute recently received a four year $1 million grant from the John Merck Fund’s Translational Research Program in developmental disabilities to study cognitive training in children with fragile X syndrome. (more…)

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Assessing Replacement MMIS

North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS requested that an independent assessment be done by Susan D. Young, a Charlotte-based IT consultant to gauge the readiness of the state’s Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS). The assessment was conducted between January 7, 2013 and February 1, 2013 and showed that the new MMIS system scheduled to live July 1, still has some critical challenges.

The new MMIS will replace a 35 year old computer system that processes 88 million state Medicaid claims each year on behalf of 1.5 million Medicaid recipients and issues checks to 70,000 providers totaling more than $11 billion.


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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 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.


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