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Report: eHI Meeting Day 1

January 20, 2011
by David Raths
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ACOs, meaningful use Stage 2 and eHealth awards take center stage

Kicking off the 2011 eHealth Initiative annual conference in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19, William F. Jessee, MD, President and CEO of the Medical Group Management Association, noted that this promises to be an especially busy year in e-health as meaningful use Stage 2 and accountable care organizations (ACOs) take shape.

Jessee, the 2011 eHealth Initiative board chair, said his e-mail inbox is getting clogged with invitations to conferences that promise to be the last word on ACOs. In fact, he relayed a joke that ACO stands for “any consultants’ opportunity.” Jessee also joked that an ACO may be like a unicorn, a mythical beast with magical powers that no one has ever seen.

As the conference got down to business, it heard from Mandy Cohen, M.D., senior advisor to the newly created Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, which the health reform act provides $10 billion through fiscal 2019 to identify, validate and diffuse new models of care and payment. The center, which is in its first 90 days, is in hiring mode, engaging in stakeholder consultation and developing its strategic operating plan, Cohen said. The health reform act gives the Health & Human Services secretary authorization to expand the duration and scope of successful models, she added. “That is key. If we can show something improves quality and saves money, we can implement it. That has a lot of implications.”

Admitting that innovation and government are not often said in the same sentence, Cohen nevertheless stressed that technology will play a central role in whatever care delivery models develop, but she said the center wants to avoid being too prescriptive about technology upfront.

Speaking during a panel discussion on the potential challenges of meaningful use Stage 2, Hank Fanberg, director of technology advocacy for Christus Health, said one of his organization’s greatest challenges involves certification issues.

“We are in an environment with 800 separate software applications. We are trying to figure out which ones need to get certified and which do not,” Fanberg said. To determine which parts of their IT infrastructure needs certification, organizations must deconstruct how they will meet meaningful use objectives, he added. An example is public health reporting. Irving, Texas-based Christus, which has more than 50 hospitals and long-term care facilities in eight states,may need to use third-party software to filter the stream of data for state and federal public health organizations. Does that filtering software need to be certified? Fanberg suggested health systems must work with their vendors on a case-by-case basis to make that determination.

The first day of the conference concluded with the organization’s annual awards.
• Jonah Frohlich, who recently left his position as deputy secretary of health information technology for the California Health and Human Services Agency, was named eHealth Public Advocate of the Year for creating a collaborative infrastructure that encouraged broad participation and investment in heath IT.
• Harris Frankel, M.D., president of the Nebraska Health Information Initiative Inc., was named eHealth Physician Advocate of the Year for bringing together a coalition of diverse healthcare stakeholders to fund and support the development of NeHII.

Two groups were named eHealth Organizations of the Year:

• The Institute for Family Health, a New York-based federally qualified community health center, uses technology to analyze data and target outreach for certain types of patients who needed to obtain care.
• The Carolinas HealthCare System launched a comprehensive health management program to help its employees improve their health risks, change their health behaviors, and reduce the burden of rising healthcare costs.


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