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December 31, 2009
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Harvard Researchers: Projected HIT Savings Are Baseless

A national survey of U.S. hospitals by Harvard researchers published in The American Journal of Medicine shows that information technology has yielded neither administrative efficiencies nor cost savings.

The findings indicate that increased computerization in U.S. hospitals hasn't made them cheaper or more efficient, Harvard researchers say, although it may have modestly improved the quality of care for heart attacks. The data came from the HIMSS Analytics annual survey of hospital computerization; Medicare Cost Reports that hospitals submit annually to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS); and the 2008 Dartmouth Health Atlas, which compiles CMS data on costs and quality of care.

Although researchers found that U.S. hospitals increased their computerization between 2003 and 2007, they found no indication that health IT lowered costs or streamlined administration. While U.S. hospital administrative costs increased slightly, from 24.4 percent in 2003 to 24.9 percent in 2007, hospitals that computerized most rapidly actually had the largest increases in administrative costs.

Doctors Without Borders Get Free Access to MD Consult

The physicians of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999, will receive free access to MD Consult electronic clinical decision support from Amsterdam-based Elsevier.

The company says that as part of its “All You Need to Make a Difference” Campaign, Elsevier, will donate a free subscription to MSF for each annual individual MD Consult subscription purchased between Nov. 16 and Dec. 18, 2009. Based on its projections, Elsevier estimates that the month-long campaign could provide 400 subscriptions to MSF's volunteer physicians. Based on average monthly sales, Elsevier estimates that the licenses donated to MSF's volunteer physicians could be worth as much as $140,000.

Emory's Cantrell Named CIO of the Year

Atlanta-based Emory Healthcare's Chief Information Officer Dee Cantrell has been named CIO of the Year by the Georgia CIO Leadership Association (GCLA).

The Georgia CIO of the Year Awards is the premier technology executive recognition program in the state. Awards honor technology executives who have shown excellence in managing enterprise-wide information systems in Georgia. Since 1998, the GCLA has used its CIO of the Year Awards program to recognize excellence in managing enterprise-wide information systems.

Emory Healthcare is the clinical arm of the Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University. The health system has 1,184 licensed patient beds, 9,000 employees and more than 20 health centers located throughout Metro Atlanta.

New HIE Formed in Denver

In an effort to allow physicians to exchange real-time vital health information, three Denver regional care providers have linked.

The Children's Hospital, Kaiser Permanente Colorado and Exempla Healthcare have formed a new health information exchange system. According to the organizations, through the partnership, patients may show up at any one of the hospitals and clinics and have their records instantly available to doctors with the click of a button.

The organizations say all records are up-to-date and changes are logged in real time, helping the quality of patient care, no matter where and by whom they are seen. Access to patient records is secure and requires authorization.

KLAS Revises Performance Evaluations

Based on feedback from providers and vendors, KLAS (Orem, Utah) is revising its performance evaluations for healthcare technology software, services and medical equipment vendors.

According to the company, the total number of questions in the KLAS software and medical equipment performance evaluations is being reduced from 40 to 25, and the number of questions in the professional services evaluation is being reduced from 18 to 15. In addition, software and medical equipment will now be grouped into the following categories: Sales & Contracting, Implementation & Training, Functionality & Upgrades and Service & Support. The new categories for professional services are: Sales & Contracting, Service Delivery and General.

The goal of the changes, which went into effect in late 2009, is to provide a tool that assesses vendor performance by focusing on questions that best differentiate vendors, and by eliminating some redundancy. Grouping evaluation questions in logical categories will allow providers, vendors and KLAS to more quickly identify vendor strengths and areas of improvement, it says.

Dowling Appointed CEO of AHIMA

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA, Chicago) has named Alan F. Dowling, Ph.D., as its next CEO. He is scheduled to take office Jan. 13, 2010, succeeding Linda Kloss, who announced her resignation as CEO in 2009.

Dowling's experience includes academia, systems management, strategic expertise, governance and corporate and not-for-profit executive leadership. He is an adjunct professor of information systems at Case Western Reserve University, and has lectured at Georgetown University, the American University of Beirut, Simmons College and the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned his Ph.D. in healthcare management and management information systems.

HIMSS Analytics: Business Associates Unprepared for Data Breach

According to a national survey conducted by HIMSS Analytics (Chicago) and commissioned by ID Experts (Beaverton, Ore.), 68 percent of all hospitals believe the HITECH Act's expanded breach notification requirements will result in the discovery and reporting of more incidents.

Findings from the study, which aimed to assess the state of healthcare vulnerability to data breaches, indicate that business associates are largely unprepared to meet the new data breach related obligations included in HITECH. According to the results, approximately one-third of business associates surveyed were not aware that they need to adhere to federal HIPAA privacy and security requirements, compared to 87 percent of health providers.

On the hospital and health provider side, 85 percent said they will take steps to ensure that data held by business associates will not be breached, and 47 percent said they would terminate their contracts with their business associates for violations.

MGMA: ARRA Could Fail if Not Executed Properly

The Englewood, Colo.-based Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) sent a letter to David Blumenthal, M.D., National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, warning that if ARRA is not developed and administered appropriately, a large number of providers will fail to achieve “meaningful use” and will not qualify for the incentives.

The letter included the following recommendations aimed at improving the EHR incentive programs:

  • Using only those meaningful use administrative criteria that are appropriate and achievable;

  • Instituting a process to permit physicians to test their reporting systems prior to their “go-live” date; and

  • Permitting flexibility in achieving meaningful use and avoiding a “pass/fail” approach.

Iowa to Receive $1.16 Million in ARRA Funds

Iowa's Medicaid program is set to receive approximately $1.16 million in matching funds, making it the first to collect on federal funding from the ARRA EHR incentive program, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (Baltimore).

Iowa will use the funds to conduct analysis to determine the current status of HIT activities in the state. As part of the process, the state will gather information on issues such as existing barriers to its use of EHRs, provider eligibility for EHR incentive payments and the creation of a State Medicaid HIT Plan, which will define its vision for its long-term HIT use.

The state also plans to so use funding to assess expectations of its incentive payment recipients and their need for PHRs.

The Recovery Act provides a 90 percent federal match for state planning activities to administer the incentive payments to Medicaid providers to ensure proper payments through audits and to participate in efforts to promote interoperability and meaningful use of EHR technology.

HHS Grants $235 Million to HIT “Beacon Communities”

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Dr. David Blumenthal, HHS' National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, announced $235 million in funding for a new program to bolster communities that have shown early success in the deployment of health information technology, with the idea that they can provide good examples to other communities on how to proceed.

Blumenthal said that under the Beacon Community Cooperative Agreement Program, 15 nonprofit organizations or government entities representing geographic health care communities, both urban and rural, would receive funding to accelerate their already high level of performance in demonstrating how meaningful use of health IT can benefit population health. Of the $235 million allotted for the program, $220 million will go to grants, and $15 million will be for technical assistance and evaluation.

The Beacon grants are part of the $2 billion in discretionary funding in the stimulus bill related to health IT.

Healthcare Informatics 2010 January;27(1):43-44


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