Innovation, Health IT Transforming Health Care Delivery, Blumenthal Says

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Efforts to innovate health care and efforts to widely implement health information technology are “very much linked” to improving and changing health care delivery, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology David Blumenthal said March 8.

Blumenthal spoke at a briefing on the March issue of Health Affairs, which includes three papers on the benefits of adopting electronic health records, in addition to other profiles of innovation in health care delivery.

“Innovation and information technology are parallel supporting tracks on the way to improved care,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal also gave updated numbers for initiatives from the Office of the National Coordinator for HIT that are aimed at facilitating health IT adoption and implementation.

Currently, 34,000 providers have registered for the Medicare and Medicaid “meaningful use” incentive programs, and approximately 50,000 providers have enrolled with regional extension centers--which provide support to physicians and hospitals implementing EHR technologies--around the country, Blumenthal said.

In addition, he said, $34 million in Medicaid incentives have been made to 216 providers in four states.

Incentive payments for the adoption and meaningful use of certified EHR technology were authorized in the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Incentive payments will be made through the Medicare and Medicaid programs. High rates of EHR adoption could result in as much as $27 billion over 10 years in meaningful use incentive payments.

ONC Study on EHRs.

According to a study by ONC staff that will appear in the March Health Affairs issue, there is growing evidence of the benefits of health IT, Blumenthal said.

The new study--which involved a review of 154 relevant peer-reviewed articles--found that 92 percent of the articles on health IT concluded that health technologies had positive effects on key aspects of care, including quality and efficiency of health care, Melinda Buntin, director of the Office of Economic Analysis, Evaluation, and Modeling at ONC, said at the briefing.

The review included articles published from July 2007 to February 2010, following up on earlier reviews of articles from 1995 to 2004 and from 2004 to 2007. The most recent review initially surveyed more than 4,000 peer-reviewed articles, of which 154 qualified for the parameters of the study, ONC said in a release.

The latest literature review by ONC is valuable, Blumenthal said, because it represents up-to-date findings and expands beyond past studies by larger health care systems to include a more representative sampling of physician settings.

Negative findings in the study were most often associated with provider or staff satisfaction related to difficulties with the process of transitioning from paper-based to electronic-based records and care, the release said.

According to the article, these findings “highlight the need for studies that document the challenging aspects of implementing HIT more specifically and how these challenges might be addressed.”

Additional Innovation Efforts.

Also speaking at the Health Affairs briefing was Sean Cavanaugh, director of Provider, Contracting, and Reimbursement for the CMS Innovation Center, who gave an update on the CMS Innovation Center.

According to Cavanaugh, the CMS Innovation Center, which is charged with testing new payment models in order to develop payment system and quality reform, should be open in the “very near future.”

Once the Innovation Center opens, CMS will also release information on criteria for innovation submissions and processes for the center's work, Cavanaugh said.

CMS Administrator Donald M. Berwick announced March 2 that the new innovation center will also play a key role in sponsoring demonstration projects and other pilot programs to combat health care-associated infections.

The innovation center was created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

Cavanaugh recommended that providers keep in mind that collaboration is necessary between leaders of health care organizations and the doctors and nurses that put innovative ideas into practice.

By Genevieve Douglas


The March issue of Health Affairs is available at http://www.healthaffairs.org/.