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June 1, 2007
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Kolodner Gets the Gig

Robert kolodner, m.d

Robert Kolodner

Robert Kolodner, M.D. — interim national coordinator for health IT in the Department of Health and Human Services since Sept. 20, 2006 — has been named to that position on a permanent basis.

As national coordinator for health IT, Kolodner will serve as principal advisor to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt on all health IT initiatives. He will also continue to develop, maintain, and direct the implementation of the strategic plan to guide nationwide adoption of interoperable health IT.

Kolodner joined HHS from the Department of Veterans Affairs'(VA) Veterans Health Administration (VHA), where he was chief health informatics officer. In that role, he was chief advisor to the VA's under secretary for health on information technology issues and oversaw the development of the VA's electronic health record, VistA.

AHIP's Proposal

A new strategy to improve the safety and quality of medical care has been released by the Board of Directors of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).

Key elements of AHIP's Quality and Safety Proposal include:

  • Establishing a new national entity to evaluate and compare the safety, efficacy and cost effectiveness of new and existing healthcare treatments and technologies, including prescription drugs and medical devices.

  • Reforming the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to improve its ability to assess the long-term safety and effectiveness of newly approved drugs and devices.

  • Setting a national research agenda that addresses known gaps in evidence and makes communication regarding ongoing research studies a national priority.

IRS Rules on EMRs

The Internal Revenue Service has stated that not-for-profit hospitals can subsidize their affiliated physicians' costs of acquiring and implementing electronic medical records without violating Stark anti-kickback laws.

The ruling covers both software and technical support for physicians to connect to their hospital's EMR.

Physician financing of EMRs has been identified as a stumbling block to adoption. Last year, the National Alliance for Health Information Technology and the American Hospital Association called attention to the potential tax issues faced by non-for-profit hospitals when providing their doctors with IT funding.

Reviewing Privacy Rule

According to a report, “On the Front Lines of Healthcare Privacy,” issued by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), the role of privacy officers in healthcare has changed due to the evolution of health information exchanges, state-level privacy and security standards that are more stringent than HIPAA, and numerous high-profile security and privacy breaches.

In the report, AHIMA spoke with four privacy professionals, all of whom provided insight on how privacy officers:

  • Now play a broader role within their healthcare organizations.

  • Do work that has become more complex, with the introduction of health information exchanges and increased interest from the public.

  • Face challenges that still exist with some HIPAA standards.

  • Deal with the long-standing task of educating consumers about their privacy rights.

A Perspective on Payers

Philadelphia-based CIGNA received top marks in a recently issued ranking of the nation's insurers, conducted by Watertown, Mass.-based athenahealth Inc. and Baltimore-based Physicians Practice journal.

Findings from the 2007 PayerView Rankings:

  • Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna moved from a ranking of fourth in 2006 to second in 2007.

  • The rankings indicate an increased burden put on physicians in having to manage patient collections due to consumer-directed health plans, co-insurance, co-pays, and high-deductible plans.

  • DAR for processing claims decreased close to 5 percent for national payers and 3 percent for regional payers from the 2006 rankings.

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield Rhode Island had the lowest DAR of any payer in the nation.

  • Patient liability is on the rise. Blue Shield of California was the lowest ranked payer in the nation with a percent patient liability of 16.9 percent.

The ranking is designed to quantify the “ease of doing business with the payer,” according to athenahealth. All data used for the rankings came from actual claims performance data of athenahealth providers.

HHS Reports on e-Prescribing

Michael leavitt

Michael Leavitt

In a report to Congress, HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt announced the results of an electronic prescribing pilot project that support the adoption of new standards.

The pilot project demonstrated that three initial standards — for transactions that provide physicians with patients' formulary and benefit information; medication history; and the fill status of medications — are already capable of supporting e-prescribing transactions in Medicare Part D.