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Interoperable EHRs Coming to More Care Facilities, CMS Says

This CMS project will expand interoperable EHR access to long-term care, behavioral health, and substance abuse treatment facilities.

By Sara Heath

- Health technology and interoperable EHRs are about to reach even more patients, according to a recent announcement from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

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In a blog post, CMS acting administrator Andy Slavitt and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary and National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo announced a CMS initiative to spark the adoption of interoperable EHRs to long-term care, behavioral health, and substance abuse treatment centers.

“The great promise of technology is to bring information to our fingertips, connect us to one another, improve our productivity, and create a platform for the next generation of innovations,” the pair wrote. “And technology can make a significant difference in the rapidly modernizing Medicaid program.”

“That’s why today, we are announcing an initiative to bring interoperable technology to a broader universe of health care providers, including long-term care, behavioral health providers, substance abuse treatment centers, and other providers that have been slower to adopt technology,” Slavitt and DeSalvo continued.

This project will help enhance patient care not only for those in the settings who will newly be able to get EHRs and health IT, but also for those visiting facilities that have had EHRs for some time. By adding to the information pool in an area, as well as adding more interoperable systems into the healthcare space, health information exchange should only get stronger.

“This announcement will help to bridge an information sharing gap in Medicaid by permitting states to request the 90 percent enhanced matching funds from CMS to connect a broader variety of Medicaid providers to a health information exchange than those providers who are eligible for such connections today,” the two said. “This additional funding will enhance the sustainability of health information exchanges and lead to increased connectivity among Medicaid providers.”

Benefits of more connected health systems will be seen across all points of care. Connected health technology and interoperable EHRs have solidified themselves as mainstays in the healthcare industry by bringing care coordination to the forefront through the seamless transfer of health information.

When all physicians are able to access to health information at the right time, they can make better care decisions to improve their patients’ overall health and wellness. This initiative will ideally eliminate any roadblocks providers may encounter by giving all physicians access to interoperable technology.

“The free flow of information is hampered when not all doctors, facilities or other practice areas are able to make a complete circuit,” Slavitt and DeSalvo explained. “Adding long-term care providers, behavioral health providers, and substance abuse treatment providers, for example, to statewide health information exchange systems will enable seamless sharing of a patients’ health information between doctors or other clinicians when it’s needed.”

Overall, CMS is looking to improve care for all of its beneficiaries. Through care coordination and population health management benefits, spreading the use of interoperable EHRs and health IT will help all physicians deliver better care to all of their patients.

“Improving population health and addressing the needs of complex populations requires strong health information technology tools,” the two noted. “The benefits are tangible – from care coordination to medication reconciliation to public health reporting. Exchanging care information can support patients with multiple chronic conditions as they navigate specialists, hospitals, primary care, home health care, and pharmacies.”

In the long term, Slavitt and DeSalvo also expect this project to benefit alternative payment models.

“This investment should also speed the adoption of alternative payment models that focus on the quality rather than the quantity of care provided,” they said. “As the Medicaid program moves towards paying for quality, technology infrastructure and information exchange is needed for better care coordination.”

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