Medicare Names 73 Innovation Advisers

Advisers will test better models of care delivery and share ideas, to further Obama administration's healthcare reform goals.

Neil Versel, Contributor

January 6, 2012

4 Min Read

12 EHR Vendors That Stand Out

12 EHR Vendors That Stand Out

12 EHR Vendors That Stand Out (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has named an initial group of 73 innovation advisers to support the year-old Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, a key element of the Obama administration's healthcare reform strategy. The advisers, chosen from among 920 applicants, will help the CMS Innovation Center test new models of care delivery in their local communities and share ideas that could be replicated elsewhere.

"We're looking to these innovation advisers to be our partners--we want them to discover and generate new ideas that will work and help us bring them to every corner of the United States," Innovation Center director Dr. Rick Gilfillan said in a CMS statement.

It's a big group, but that seems to be the intention, according to Len Nichols, director of the Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and one of the participants in the innovation advisers program. "I think the fundamental idea behind having that many is the spirit of the program, which is to bring good ideas together," Nichols, a health economist, told InformationWeek Healthcare.

[Is it time to re-engineer your clinical decision support system? See 10 Innovative Clinical Decision Support Programs.]

Nichols' idea is to test ways of realigning incentives in healthcare so the emphasis is on primary care, prevention, and early intervention. Nichols said primary care physicians need to be "quarterbacks of the team." But specialists, hospitals, and patients should not lose out, either. "You've got to have a shared savings mechanism," Nichols said, which is exactly the idea behind accountable care organizations.

With the exception of the very largest integrated health systems, providers do not always see where they fit in the big picture of health reform, according to Nichols. "My contribution is to help folks see how there is a mutually beneficial path."

"[The innovation advisers program] is an opportunity to share experiences," agreed Jennifer DeCubellis, area director for the Hennepin County human services and public health department in Minneapolis, Minn. "We are hoping to expedite everybody's learning," added DeCubellis.

On Jan. 1, the county launched the Hennepin Health Project to focus on providing primary care and social services to about 5,000 enrollees in a Medicaid expansion program for single, low-income adults who otherwise would not be able to obtain health insurance. The program is aimed at coordinating care for a population that tends to seek high-cost treatment in hospital emergency departments and has a high rate of inpatient utilization. As part of the program, the county is looking to build the system that uses a single electronic health record (EHR) for each patient.

"One of the key elements is technology," DeCubellis told InformationWeek Healthcare. "The idea is the patient shouldn't have to repeat services and shouldn't have to be responsible for transporting their own records."

Hennepin will try to build integrated records on the existing Epic Systems EHR platform at Hennepin County Medical Center, according to DeCubellis. The health department will be building patient registries, data warehouses, and provider and patient dashboards to help coordinate care and improve population health.

Another adviser, Dr. Jay Want, chairman of the Denver-based Center for Improving Value in Health Care, a public-private partnership created by then-Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter in 2008, proposed a program to develop clinical leadership. "Ultimately, I think the cross pollination between all of the different advisers will be really cool," Want said.

He opined that the group of advisers includes a large number of very smart people. "I'll be extremely happy to be the dumbest guy in the room," said Want, who also is president and CEO of Physician Health Partners, a management services organization in Denver. "It's really quite a cadre of wonderful, interesting people."

A CMS spokeswoman said that the agency plans on choosing as many as 200 innovation advisers in the first year of the program. CMS will take new applications in the spring and likely announce the second class of advisers in June.

When are emerging technologies ready for clinical use? In the new issue of InformationWeek Healthcare, find out how three promising innovations--personalized medicine, clinical analytics, and natural language processing--show the trade-offs. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

About the Author(s)

Neil Versel


Neil Versel is a journalist specializing in health IT, mobile health, patient safety, quality of care & the business of healthcare. He’s also a board member of @HealtheVillages.

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