HHS ANNOUNCES GRANT TO HELP IMPLEMENT ELECTRONIC HEALTH RECORDS IN FAMILY PRACTICE MEDICINE
The Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced award of a $100,000 grant to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) to support the a pilot project provision ofto provide a comprehensive, standardized electronic health record (EHR) software to the health care community.
The project represents a step toward HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson’s goal of promoting the use of electronic health records in order to improve the quality of care provided to Americans. President Bush last month established a national goal of assuring that most Americans have electronic health records within 10 years. Secretary Thompson is pushing to speed up efforts to establish a national, interoperable health information infrastructure that would allow quick, reliable and secure access to information needed for patient care, while protecting patient privacy.
"Health information technology promises huge benefits for all Americans, including higher quality care at lower costs," Secretary Thompson said. "We’re moving aggressively on many fronts to harness the power of health information technology to improve health care in this country. This new pilot project represents a step forward as we encourage the adoption of electronic medical records."
"This project is an opportunity for CMS to further its objective of improving the quality and efficiency of health care services provided to Medicare beneficiaries by promoting the adoption of EHR and information technology in small and medium-sized ambulatory care practices," McClellan said.
The grant will assist AAFP to plan, implement and evaluate a pilot project in which medical practices participating in the pilot will adopt low-cost, standards-based electronic health records. AAFP will support and monitor the transition to electronic health records in these practices, to learn more about what factors facilitate or hinder practices’ smooth adoption of the technology.
"This grant will help support technological changes to enable family practice doctors to participate fully in a more modern and efficient health care system," Dr. McClellan said. "Our support of the AAFP initiative is an important part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ broader program to promote the use of information technology to update our health care system and organize it around the best interests of patient care."
This project project, which will provide electronic medical records systems in a small number of medical practices, complements additional efforts underway at CMS and across HHS to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare delivery, and represents a broader commitment to supporting public-private partnerships in this cause.
CMS is already engaged in many quality improvement activities, which range from quality reporting programs across provider groups to a pay-for-performance demonstration project with hospitals. The agency also has taken an active roll in promoting information technology as an essential tool to quality improvement. For example, CMS is working to accelerate the adoption of electronic prescribing technology ahead of the schedule mandated by the Medicare Modernization Act or 2003 (MMA), and is making IT a central part of its overall quality improvement agenda through its DOQ-IT Special Study and its physician-based pay-for-performance demonstration under MMA.
In addition to these efforts, CMS is trying to lower the barriers, both financial and regulatory, to the dissemination of health information technologies. For example, CMS is investing in making the Veterans Administration’s EHR system (VistA) available as a low-cost EHR option for non-VA physicians, and has recently announced a new exception to the Stark regulations for Community-wide Health Information Systems. In all, the AAFP grant represents a commitment by CMS to AAFP’s important project, and to the broader goal of improving the quality and efficiency of healthcare delivery.