Healthcare IT top priority for state legislatures

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Following unprecedented growth in the healthcare IT sector in 2011, officials at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) recently published a report stating that healthcare IT spending was seen as an urgent priority for state lawmakers and policy experts in 2012, reports Healthcare IT News.

Among the key areas of debate for the NCSL were the efficiency of the Medicare program and the quality of care provided to patients. In light of continued federal spending complications, cost containment of Medicare has been an urgent priority for many states.

Suggestions established by the NCSL report for improving the Medicare program included aligning financial incentives with demonstrable outcomes, the implementation of alternative payment methods for eligible healthcare providers, and the widespread adoption of health information exchanges (HIEs).

Additionally, the report indicates that continued adoption of medical informatics systems and interconnectivity with wider HIEs should be considered a priority for facilities enrolled in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ meaningful use federal financial incentive program.

“Essentially, instead of having a different health record at each doctor or provider you visit, an EHR will serve as one file that all of your doctors can see,” reads the report, as quoted by the news source. “By mid-year 2012, every state should have Medicaid [electronic health record] incentive programs in place and will be working toward building an HIE by late 2014 or early 2015 as required by deadlines attached to federal cooperative agreements.”

In addition to providing increased access to patient health information by multiple care facilities, HIEs enable medical professionals to send and receive information securely, complying with federal privacy and data security regulations. The Greater Houston Health Information Exchange recently announced its support for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s Direct Project Protocol service, which facilitates secure instant messaging between healthcare providers.