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6/25/2012
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Long-Term Care Providers Still Need Data Exchange

Although LTC and post-acute care providers have been excluded from Meaningful Use, they still play a key role in continuity of care, says federal health IT official.

8 Health Information Exchanges Lead The Way
8 Health Information Exchanges Lead The Way
(click image for larger for slideshow)
Non-physician providers of long-term and post-acute care may not qualify for the Meaningful Use electronic health records (EHRs) incentive program, but they likely will need to exchange EHR data electronically and report on clinical measures in order to participate in pay-for-performance and other quality-centric models in the future, according to a top federal health IT official.

"The time for health information technology is now," Judy Murphy, deputy national coordinator for programs and policy in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), said at last week's Long-Term and Post-Acute Care Health Information Technology Summit in Baltimore.

"Interoperability and health information exchange are major priorities for ONC moving forward," Murphy, a registered nurse, added. "The goal is to assure that information follows patients whenever and wherever they seek care. It is essential for [long-term and post-acute care] providers to invest in technology to support these goals."

Murphy noted that the proposed rules for Stage 2 of Meaningful Use, set to take effect in 2014, contain several provisions relevant to these areas of care. The proposal calls for hospitals and "eligible professionals"--including physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, and chiropractors--to be able to generate longitudinal care plans, documents for transition of care, and care patient assessment summaries.

Murphy also said that ONC is engaging long-term and post-acute care providers through the Standards and Interoperability (S&I) Framework and via federal grants given to state HIE programs in Massachusetts, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Colorado to promote interoperability in these care domains.

[ Most of the largest healthcare data security and privacy breaches have involved lost or stolen mobile computing devices. For possible solutions, see 7 Tools To Tighten Healthcare Data Security. ]

While it would take an act of Congress to expand Meaningful Use to long-term and post-acute care providers--the original scope is codified in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act--such providers are finding issues with health IT, as are hospitals and physician practices, according to Deborah Green, VP of health information management solutions at the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). AHIMA is one of the eight industry organizations that make up the LTPAC Health Information Technology Collaborative, which convened last week's summit.

"A lot of providers across the continuum of care do have challenges in funding of electronic health records," Green told InformationWeek Healthcare. They may not have access to the estimated $27 billion in Meaningful Use incentive money, but they can demand interoperability features from EHR vendors to make the investment more worthwhile, Green said.

Some vendors of long-term care EHR systems have been "progressive in incorporating that capability into their solutions," Green added, specifically naming the consolidated Clinical Document Architecture standard.

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