The new initiative, dubbed the North Carolina Program to Advance Technology for Health (NC PATH), will target small independent practices and free clinics that have limited budgets and are finding it too expensive to implement EHRs.
To help small practices and free clinics buy and implement an EHR, Allscripts will invest $8 million while BCBSNC will contribute $15 million to the project, which will pay for 85% of the software and setup costs for 600 physicians at eligible independent practices and 100% of the costs for 39 eligible free clinics over the next five years. The funds will also contribute to the training and support that are critical to the successful use of an EHR.
"From a financial perspective, physicians that apply for HITECH Act incentives have to pay out of pocket and are then reimbursed. NC PATH allows physicians to purchase and implement an EHR without having to come up with all the money out of pocket," Brad Wilson, BCBSNC president and CEO, told InformationWeek Healthcare.
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"By addressing the out-of-pocket costs, we are making EHR adoption and implementation easy for physicians. These physicians are still eligible for HITECH incentives, which they can use to address other costs, such as hardware, that are required to implement and utilize the EHR solution," he said.
When asked what the return on investment would be for BCBSNC, Wilson said EHR technology can eliminate inefficiencies, such as reducing unnecessary procedures, test duplications, and other waste that drive up medical costs by 20%.
Not only will the funding provide support toward achieving Meaningful Use requirements under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, but the technology purchased will also assist providers to achieve Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) recognition from organizations such as the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). Once primary care practices become PCMH recognized, they are in a better position to receive pay-for-performance opportunities through state agencies, health plans, and regional independent practice associations.
"We know the independent primary care physicians are vital to a competitive and therefore affordable healthcare market," Wilson said. "These physicians greatly impact quality, and are eligible to receive their Patient Centered Medical Home recognition--yet another way we are working to help improve healthcare quality to rein in costs."
To further support the NC PATH initiative, BCBSNC is working with other organizations dedicated to the implementation of health information technology such as the NC Area Health Education Center Regional Extension Center, which will help to identify and enhance quality improvement opportunities within a participating practice's data reporting systems so that they can achieve PCMH recognition. Additionally, BCBSNC and Allscripts are working with the North Carolina Health Information Exchange to create an HIE that will allow for the exchange and sharing of patient data among providers.
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