Thursday, July 1, 2010

Temporary Certification Announced and Tennessee excels toward HIE

In my first blog post dated January 5, 2010, I mentioned that our nation is at the forefront of aligning the stars with monetary incentives to stimulate the adoption and meaningful use of the Electronic Health Record (EHR). Some have dubbed this as the perfect storm of Healthcare reform. Earlier this month, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) issued a final rule to establish a temporary certification program for EHR technology. This program will establish processes that organizations will need to follow in order to be authorized by ONC to test and certify EHR technology. Use of "certified EHR technology" is a core requirement for providers who seek to qualify to receive incentive payments under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program. 

Certification will be used to provide "assurance and confidence" that a product or service will work as expected. By purchasing certified EHR technology, hospitals and eligible providers will be able to make EHR purchasing decisions knowing that the technology will allow them to become meaningful users of EHRs to qualify for the payment incentives and begin to use EHRs in a way that will improve quality and efficiency in our health care system. Systems will include the capabilities a hospital or provider envisioned when they purchased the EHR. The certification will also ensure the capabilities are available to achieve meaningful use incentives.

Exchanging health information among disparate systems quickly and in usable formats, might be the vision for improving healthcare, but getting information beyond point-to-point transactions is a challenge for even the most engaged, forward thinking organizations. As the drive for information exchange standards continues, some healthcare systems as well as Tennessee are gearing up to purchase tools to harness, index, route, and harmonize patient data to make it available at the right place and at the right time to enable the clinical caregiver to improve the patient care process.

Tennessee has been making incremental strides towards improving the patient care process and was recently recognized as one of the top five most improved states in routing prescriptions electronically. Surescripts, a health information network that operates the country's largest electronic prescribing network, announced that Tennessee ranked second behind Vermont and just ahead of Kansas, Illinois and Missouri on the top five list. Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen co-hosted the fourth annual Safe-Rx Awards event as part of the recent State Alliance for e-Health meeting. Bredesen has long supported improving the process and co-chairs the alliance with Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas. Surescripts created the Safe-Rx Awards to raise awareness of e-prescribing as a way to improve patient safety by providing a secure, accurate and informed prescribing process. This is the first of many steps our state will have to make to truly improve the quality of patient care.

Tennessee's department of eHealth, in conjunction with nine other states, is conducting market research regarding enterprise medication management technologies and services. An RFI was published June 17, 2010 and is due July 12, 2010. The responses to this RFI will assist the nine states in understanding the current state of the marketplace, including commercial/government best practices, industry capabilities, innovative delivery approaches, commercial market service levels, and performance strategies and measures. Information gained through this RFI will greatly assist TN in determining how best to advance innovative medication management services.

In addition to the above RFI, the Health Information Partnership for Tennessee (HIP TN) also released an RFP on June 25, 2010. Responses are due July 13, 2010. HIP TN is the state designated entity charged with coordinating activities for the Regional Extension Center (tnREC) as well as the Health Information Exchange (HIE) strategy for Tennessee. HIP TN, a non-profit organization, works to improve access to health information through a statewide collaborative process by providing services and infrastructure for the secure electronic exchange and use of health information between state-wide agencies and local or Regional Health Information Organizations (RHIO). This RFP is soliciting proposals to provide a statewide HIE infrastructure platform for Core Services and other functions to be accessed by physicians, hospitals, other health care organizations, and consumers.

HIP TN has defined Core Services to include:
  • Service Access Layer
  • Patient Matching Service
  • Master Clinician Index
  • Master Facilities Index
  • Trust Broker
  • NHIN Gateway
In addition, the RFP will describe hosting services and operational expertise in support of the Core Services that will be administered on behalf of HIP TN by the Solution Provider. I currently volunteer on the Technology work group who has been leading the RFP process. While the remainder of the year ahead is full of deadlines and deliverables, I look forward to assisting with one of the biggest challenges, to keep various stakeholders in HIP TN, across my state, and various other states abreast of all the technology and standards that are out there.