Federal and State Government News Update


Edition Fifty-Six (10/26/10)

EPIC Gives Obama Administration Mediocre Privacy Grades
Computerworld, 10/22/10
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) gave the Obama Administration mediocre grades in its second annual privacy report card. Overall, EPIC gave the administration B's for its privacy efforts in cyberspace and in protecting health care data, a C for consumer data protection efforts, and a D on civil liberties.

Blumenthal Seeks Better Planning for Stage 2
Modern Healthcare, subscription required 10/21/10
David Blumenthal said planners developing Stage 2 Meaningful Use criteria under the federal EHR incentive program will have slightly more strategic-thinking time than they had in creating Stage 1 criteria. The first go-round was very rushed, and working under such tight deadlines didn't allow for careful forward planning. Blumenthal wants to be more prepared for the upcoming Stage 2 criteria.

Health I.T. Czar Pushes EHR for Minority Communities
InformationWeek, 10/20/10
In an open letter, David Blumenthal is urging the health I.T. vendor community to help bolster EHR adoption rates among health care providers in underserved, minority communities. The letter, co-signed by Blumenthal and Dr. Garth Graham, director of the office of minority health, cited a CDC National Ambulatory Medical Care survey indicating EHR adoption rates remain lower among providers serving Hispanic or Latino patients who are uninsured or relied upon Medicaid.

CMS' EHR Meaningful Use Bonus Money Subject to Federal Taxes
American Academy of Family Physicians, 10/20/10 
All health I.T. incentive payments received as a part of ARRA and the HITECH Act are viewed by the IRS as taxable income. However, when physicians buy equipment—hardware or software—the IRS allows them to write off as much as 100 percent of the cost of the equipment.

CMS to Publish Meaningful Use Clarifications Soon
Government Health IT, 10/20/10
CMS is about to publish a notice to correct inconsistencies in the Meaningful Use final rule, as well as guidance for providers on how to meet quality measures required by the health I.T. incentive program. Both documents are now in the federal clearance process, the last step before publication, said Tony Trenkle, director of CMS’ Office of e-Health Standards and Services.

Beacons Test Community Health Care Strategies
Government Health IT, 10/19/10
Federally funded Beacon Communities are tackling the problem of hospital re-admissions and other tough health care challenges by testing the effectiveness of multiple treatment strategies simultaneously instead of taking the traditional approach of testing one treatment at a time.

FDA Writes Prescription for I.T. Innovation
InformationWeek, 10/18/10
The FDA is working on a five-year I.T. strategic plan to support key parts of the agency's public health activities. The agency is modernizing its I.T. infrastructure to spur innovation and foster collaboration with other federal agencies as well as globally. 

HHS: Patients Should Receive Easily Understood HIE Privacy Notices
Government Health IT, 10/18/10
Health care providers should supply patients with layered and easy to understand notices of how their information will be used and protected when it is exchanged. Physicians should include this description in a short summary in the privacy practices notice required by HIPAA which patients receive and sign at office visits, according to HHS.

Today's Health Information Exchanges
InformationWeek, 10/16/10
Here's how four HIEs are getting doctors to share patient data to improve care and cut costs.

Digital Records Spot Side Effects
Wall Street Journal, 10/15/10
Computerized patient records could be used to improve lax reporting of serious drug side effects, the results of a study suggest. The study, at Massachusetts General and Brigham & Women's hospitals in Boston showed a large increase in reporting of adverse events to the FDA once doctors used an automated tool.

ONC Issues Interim Final Rule to Correct 'Erroneous' EHR Specs
CMIO, 10/13/10
ONC issued an interim final rule with a request for comment to remove the EHR implementation specifications related to public health surveillance. The adopted implementation specifications provide direction to public health agencies on the structure and methodology for using HL7 2.5.1 to report ‘Nationally Notifiable Conditions’ to CDC and do not provide additional clarity for how EHR technology would need to be designed to implement the adopted standard (HL7 2.5.1) or enable compliance with the capability identified in the certification criterion adopted.

New EMR Software Could Improve Your Health
U.S. News and World Report, 10/13/10
A majority of primary care physicians still use paper charts—despite research suggesting these handwritten flowsheets aren't just inefficient, but extremely vulnerable to errors. Some say the solution lies in simply switching to EHRs.

CCHIT Chair: 'Certification Moving in the Right Direction'
Healthcare IT News, 10/12/10
CCHIT chair Karen Bell says the EHR certification process required for Meaningful Use is moving steadily in the right direction. In a keynote speech at the HIMSS Summit, Bell highlighted the differences between the CCHIT Certified designation and the certification it now offers as one of just three Authorized Testing and Certification Bodies (ONC-ATCBs). CCHIT has already certified 40 products in the latter category.

TennCare Receives Federal Approval for EHR Incentive Program
Associated Press, 10/22/10
Tennessee has become the second state in the country to receive federal approval to move forward with their EHR provider incentive program. The aim of the state's program is to improve quality and efficiency of care by encouraging the use of health I.T. and HIE.

Massachusetts REC Gets Traction in Signing Up Physicians
Government Health IT, 10/22/10
The Massachusetts eHealth Institute expects 600 physicians and small practices will be signed up by the end of next week for health I.T. consulting services, which it is offering as one of 60 regional extension centers now courting health I.T. newcomers throughout the country.

Medical Records Go High-Tech 
The Citizen of Laconia, 10/18/10
As New Hampshire works toward creating a statewide HIE network, the firm acting as consultants on the federally-funded project has been awarded a separate grant to help individual hospitals, clinics, and physician practices either install or update EHR systems. 

West Virginia Launches Medicaid e-Prescribing
The Associated Press, 10/14/10
West Virginia is launching an e-Prescription initiative for medical prescribers across the state who are enrolled with Medicaid. The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources says the WVeScript will allow doctors to electronically send a prescription directly to a pharmacy.

Maryland HIE is LIVE
Health Data Management, 10/13/10
Maryland's statewide HIE, called the Chesapeake Regional Information System for Our Patients, or CRISP, has gone LIVE. All 48 hospitals in the state have committed to sharing data through CRISP. The HIE anticipates additional hospitals, as well as physician practices and federally qualified health centers to come on-line by year-end.

Home Health Could Prevail Over Facility-Based Care
Fierce Healthcare, 10/21/10
Although health care has been concentrated in hospitals, clinics, and other facilities over the past century, home health care is where the future of care lies. Given patients' and caregivers' penchants for convenience, privacy, and autonomy, care models which bring high-quality care home via computer or mobile device may well prevail over health care facilities like hospitals. As the U.S. population ages, it may be safer to treat people at home to avoid complications associated with confinement in hospitals.

Lawmakers Question Facebook Privacy
Health Data Management, 10/20/10
Two members of Congress have sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, asking questions about the privacy of users' information.

On-line Health Information is Going Mobile
Cleveland.com, 10/19/10
With the proliferation of smart phones, mobile devices now are being used to gather, track, and manage medical and health information—particularly by young adults, according to a survey. The survey showed 17 percent of cell owners have used their phone to look up health or medical information on the Internet. 

Surgery Complications Decline 10% After Hospitals Share Data
Bloomberg, 10/18/10
Michigan hospitals cut surgical complications almost a tenth, reducing medical costs, by sharing data about practices keeping patients safer, a study found. The portion of patients deemed ill following surgery fell to 9.7 percent after the information sharing, from 10.7 percent before. Sixteen institutions saved $13 million on cases of ventilator-associated pneumonia alone.

ACOs: One System's Approach Toward Accountability and Success
Becker's Hospital Review, 10/15/10
One of the prominent aspects of the recent health care reform discussion is the effort to change the reimbursement methodology for both hospitals and physicians. A number of models, including the patient centered medical home, partial or full capitation, or bundled payment structures have been proposed. Some of these have been around for more than a decade and others are now being piloted for the first time across the country.

When Facebook is Your Medical Record
Miller McCune, 10/14/10
The advent of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, combined with rising usage rates among young people, has some physicians wondering if the sites might be helpful resources to diagnose and treat patients.

ACO Barriers are Falling
Modern Healthcare Blog, 10/14/10
Hospitals, doctors, and insurers—often debate over how best to slow health spending—have lately joined forces in the push to create networks known as accountable care organizations (ACOs).

Your Move: Hospitals are Predicting, Adapting to Change
HealthLeaders, 10/13/10
The business models which will emerge in the era of health care reform are still unclear, but leading hospitals and health systems are already positioning themselves to adapt when they do come into focus. They're taking the first steps toward becoming ACOs even before anyone knows for sure what an ACO will look like—or even if they'll ever come to fruition.

Data in the Clouds
HealthLeaders, 10/13/10
When it comes to medical imaging, massive image files shared in picture archiving and communications systems can bog down even moderately speedy Internet connections during peak hours—and accessing large files via a dial-up connection is basically a hopeless prospect. Enter the cloud, a form of Internet-based computing which allows users to share resources, software, and information on computers and other devices on demand.