New York State Announces $109 Million in Additional HIT-Related Grants

  • New York State awarded 11 hospitals, health information exchanges and other healthcare organizations including long term care facilities and mental health providers a total of $109 million in HIT grants to promote medical homes. These organizations will connect to the NY Statewide Health Information Network.
  • The objective of the grants is promote the primary care medical home model while improving the primary care infrastructure in the state. In a press release issued on September 10 State Health Commissioner Richard Daines said “Chronic illness experienced by individuals with complex health problems impacts the health and productivity of New Yorkers and drives up health care costs”, adding that “A greater focus on prevention and coordination of care, enhanced by health information technology, will improve health and reduce costs over time.”

Commerce Department Announces Additional $482 In Broadband Access Grants to Help Bridge Digital Divide – Telehealth Included

  • On September 13th , US Commerce Department Secretary Gary Locke announced an additional $482 million for 35 projects aimed at helping to bridge the technological divide, boost economic growth, create jobs and improve education and healthcare across the U.S. This second round of funding through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program or “BTOP” follows 216 previously announced awards. Click here for the press release and list of second-round Commerce Department awards.
  • The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service are administering nearly $7 billion Recovery Act initiative to expand access to and adoption of broadband services. NTIA is utilizing approximately $4 billion of that funding for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), which provides grants to support the deployment of broadband infrastructure, enhance and expand public computer centers, and encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service. All awards are to be made by September 30th.

CMS Announces Additional Grants to Four States for EHRs

  • On September 14th , The centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced additional federal matching funds for certain state planning activities to implement the electronic health record (EHR) incentive program established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). The Recovery Act provides a 90 percent federal match for state planning activities to administer the incentive payments to Medicaid providers, to ensure their proper payments through audits, and to participate in statewide efforts to promote interoperability and meaningful use of EHR technology statewide and, eventually, across the nation. A total of $6.91 million in grant funding was announced for North Dakota, Hawaii, Ohio and Massachusetts in this round of grants; to date, CMS has provided $81.44 million in matching grants to states under HITECH. To find out much more about the incentive matching program to states, and where your state stands in the process visit: CMS’ EHR Incentive Programs webpage.

DHHS Awards $130 Million to Boost Health Professions Workforce

  • On September 17th, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced $130.8 million in grants to strengthen and expand the health professions workforce. Six areas are targeted: primary care workforce training, oral health workforce training, equipment to enhance training across the health professions, loan repayments for health professionals, health careers opportunity programs for disadvantaged students, and Patient Navigator outreach and chronic disease prevention in health disparity populations. The grants include $88.7 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including $50.5 million for equipment to enhance training of health professionals. 
  • The Health Professions Workforce grants are in addition to several previously announced HIT Workforce initiatives announced by the Office of the National Coordinator for HIT. More about these programs in progress may be found at: ONC’s HITECH and funding opportunities page.

CDC Awards $42.5 Million for 94 Public Health Efforts

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced funding for 94 state, tribal, local and territorial health departments or their bona fide agents to implement projects totaling $42.5 million to systematically increase their performance management capacity and improve their ability to meet national public health standards. The program is supported through the Prevention and Public Health Fund of the Affordable Care (Health Reform) Act., and detailed information is available at CDC’s NPHIP page.

Veterans Affairs Launches Effort to Improve Access to Health and Benefits Information

  • On September 21st, the Department of Veterans Affairs launched a multi-year initiative called” Veteran’s Relationship Management (VRM) that will greatly improve veterans’ access to health care and benefits information.
  • “VRM will transform Veterans’ interactions with VA by using innovative 21st century technologies,” said VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki in the program announcement. “Veterans will have a better experience when they contact VA for assistance, and our employees will be able to quickly convey accurate, up-to-date information through call centers and the Internet.”
  • Ultimately, veterans will find enhanced self-service capabilities, and VA employees will have the best tools to serve veterans, their families and survivors better.
  • By the end of 2010, VRM will deliver improved telephone services to enable veterans to reach a call center agent faster. Recording and review of calls will ensure the quality of services provided to veterans. To help guarantee success, VRM enhancements will be rolled out in six-month increments.



CMS makes Additional Modifications to Stage 1 Meaningful Use Rules

  • Following further work by the HIT Policy Committee’s meaningful use work group, CMS has announced that it will issue further clarification and refinements to the final rule issued in July. Minor revisions, “should help clarify issues and help the (Health IT Policy Committee) plan for recommendations for future stages,” said Tony Trenkle, director of CMS’ Office of e-Health Standards and Services. The work group has now also begun to delve into the issues surrounding “Stage 2” requirements. Modifications will be posted at the CMS website . For his part, HHS National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Dr. DavidBlumenthal has suggested at several recent meetings that Stage 2 requirements will build on Stage 1 and may include requirements pertaining to clinical decision support tools and the start of health information exchanges.

ONC Has Named a Third Authorized EHR Testing and Certification Organization

  • The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) has now named a third authorized testing and certification organization (ATCB) – InfoGard, Inc — under its temporary certification program for EHRs. In August ONC had designated the Certification Commission for Health IT (CCHIT) and the Drummond Group as ATCBs. Click for the updated list of ONC-Authorized Testing and Certification Bodies (ATCBs). Recently, CCHIT announced it had begun accepting applications for testing and certification, and more information is available on ONC’s website.



GAO Cites DHHS Problems in Safeguarding Healthcare Data

  • The General Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report, which among other things, has found problems in the way in which DHHS protects personal health information. Some patient care data, including data often shared with contractors is not always adequately protected the federal watchdog agency found. The report is titled, Stronger Safeguards Needed for Contractor Access to Sensitive Information.
  • In a related matter, on Friday, December 3, the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) will host a free day-long public roundtable on “Personal Health Records — Understanding the Evolving Landscape.” The roundtable is designed to inform ONC’s Congressionally mandated report on privacy and security requirements for non-Covered Entities (non-CEs), with a focus on personal health records (PHRs) and related service providers (Section 13424 of the HITECH Act) . 

Commonwealth Fund Issues New Report on How Health Reform Will Transform System

  • The Commonwealth Fund has issued an update of a December 2009 report on health reform to reflect the March 2010 passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, analyzing the provisions in the new law that will affect providers’ financial incentives, the organization and delivery of health care services, investment in prevention and population health, and the capacity to achieve the best health care and health outcomes for all. Find the Abstract and Executive Summary of the Commonwealth Fund report here.

Privacy Key Obstacle to EHR Adoption – Comparison of the U.S. & Europe

  • A new study compares the perceived privacy of electronic health records (EHR) as an obstacle to HIT adoption in the U.S. & Europe. The study, titled “Privacy and Security in the Implementation of Health Information Technology (Electronic Health Records): U.S. and EU Compared,” points out that EHR adoption is much higher in European Union Countries. For example, as many as 95% of people in Holland have EHR through their primary physicians or hospital of record; while E H R use in the U.S. is well under 50%. It also points out that privacy requirements are much greater in Europe than in the U.S., and that there are cases of identity theft through EHRs in the U.S. The study makes recommendations for improving privacy and EHR adoption. This is important to CHCs because it highlights E H R privacy isssues that will become increasingly important as the adoption of electronic health records proceeds, and also describes the approaches to privacy that have allowed high adoption of EHR as well as high confidence in the privacy of the managed information.



Ahima Letter to ONC on Privacy

  • The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) represents approximately 60,000 health information management professionals working in all aspects of healthcare delivery, administration and research. An18-page AHIMA letter to ONC dated September 8, 2010 details many comments on HHS’ Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on “Modifications to the HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Enforcement Rules Under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act” (HITECH) as published in the July 14, 2010 Federal Register (Vol.75, No. 134, Pages 40868-40924). A major comment area, and one especially relevant to CHCs, addresses the allowance of consumer (patient) restrictions on the release of personal health information held in EHRs. AHIMA points out that there are many operational issues associated with actually implementing consumer restrictions including: redacting provider notes so that restricted information is not available, restricting PHI that business associates responsible for administrative or billing tasks see, insuring that restricted information is not available for HIE and many other issues most of which are not currently part of EHR capabilities. AHIMA also had concerns with the meaningful use criteria relating to providing consumer access to EHR based information. Clearly these issues are important and will have to be resolved in order for EHRs to function in accordance with the law.

HIT Policy Committee Seeks Input on Priorities for Healthcare Information Exchange

  • The Health IT Policy Committee’s Information Exchange Workgroup seeks your help. The workgroup, chaired by Micky Tripathi and David Lansky, invites you to offer insights through the Federal Advisory Committee Blog on creating provider directories that will help enable nationwide health information exchange.
  • Federal Advisory Committee Blog, which details questions for input and discussion, is open until October 4, 2010, for comments on the business needs of individuals and organizations that would use health information exchange services, as well as on the technical, organizational, business, and policy barriers that might prevent rapid rollout of provider directories to support health information exchange transactions.