HHS Sets Ambitious 2013 Health IT Goals

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced a set of ambitious goals for 2013 that involves accelerating the use of health information exchange by providers in order to increase the flow of health information.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Farzad Mostashari, MD, released the goals on March 6 as part of a public request for information (RFI) that discusses several potential new policies and ideas aiming to increase the interoperability and exchange of patient health information across care settings. The goal of the policies would be to deliver better and more affordable care to patients.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we are improving the way care is delivered while lowering costs,” Tavenner said, according to a HHS press release. “We are already seeing benefits, such as a reduction in hospital readmissions due to these reforms. Health IT and the secure exchange of information across providers are crucial to reforming the system, and must be a routine part of care delivery.”

HHS plans to launch the following initiatives:

  • Set aggressive goals for 2013. HHS is setting the goal of 50 percent of physician offices using electronic health records (EHR) and 80 percent of eligible hospitals receiving “meaningful use” EHR Incentive Program payments by the end of 2013.
  • Increase the emphasis on interoperability. HHS will increase its emphasis on ensuring electronic exchange across providers. It will start that effort by issuing a RFI seeking public input about a variety of policies that “will strengthen the business case for electronic exchange across providers,” HHS said in the press release. “This will help ensure patients’ health information will follow them seamlessly and securely wherever they access care.”
  • Expand use of the Blue Button initiative. HHS will work with the Veterans Administration and more than 450 different organizations to make healthcare information available to patients and health plan members via Blue Button. HHS is also encouraging Medicare Advantage plans to expand the use of Blue Button to provide beneficiaries with one-click secure access to their health information.
  • Implement stage 2 meaningful use. HHS will work to help providers implement stage 2 of the incentive program, which includes defining what data must be able to be exchanged between health IT systems, and how data will be structured and coded so that providers will have one uniform way to format and securely send data.
  • Underscore program integrity. HHS is taking new steps to ensure that the integrity of its programs, such as meaningful use and Medicare, is sound and that technology is not being used to “game the system.” For example, HHS is conducting extensive medical reviews and issuing comparative billing reports that identify providers.

HHS hopes to continue recent trends showing an increase in health IT use in 2013. EHR adoption has tripled since 2010, increasing to 44 percent in 2012, and computerized physician order entry has more than doubled since 2008, according to an HHS press release.

“The 2014 standards for electronic health records create the technical capacity for providers to be able to share information with each [other] and with the patient,” Mostashari said. “Through the RFI, we are interested in hearing about policies that could provide an even greater business case for such information sharing.”

The HHS RFI is available here. The deadline for industry comments is April 21, 2013.

1 Comment

  1. What complete and utter nonsense, not to mention a lie for Ms. Tavenner to make the statement “Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we are improving the way care is delivered while lowering costs.” Talk about “spin.” First of all, the provisions for the ONC and the Meaningful use incentives had nothing to do and (in the case of the ONC) far preceded “the Affordable care Act.” She seems to be a particularly masterful liar in this regard. While an argument could be made (and backed up statistically in some ways) that the incentives and meaningful use program have not only the potential, but have in reality contributed to lower healthcare costs in some regards, there is absolutely no way this could be claimed or shown for the “Affordable Care act,” which is now projected to add up to 2 trillion dollars to the national debt even by the Office of Management and Budget. There is no way Ms. Tavenner does not know this. She is, quite simply, a liar.

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