The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are doling out more than $6.9 million to four states as part of the federal government’s push to hasten the adoption of electronic medical records.
Massachusetts, Ohio, Hawaii and North Dakota are all in line for a piece of the action, which will go toward determining how far health information technology has penetrated their healthcare systems.
The cash, in the form of federal matching funds to those states’ Medicaid programs, is aimed at helping the states plan their EMR initiatives, including determining "the current status of HIT activities," according to a press release. The money comes from a 90 percent matching fund established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
That means assessing existing barriers, provider eligibility for incentive payments and the creation of a Medicaid HIT Plan in each state, " which will define the state’s vision for its long-term HIT use," according to the release.
Massachusetts, long a hub for hi-tech innovation, is home to a robust cluster of HIT companies including Athenahealth Inc. (NSDQ:ATHN), eClinicalWorks, MedVentive Inc. and Casenet Inc. Ohio is no slouch either. MedPlus Inc., Hyland Software Inc., MetroHealth and non-profit HealthBridge all call the Buckeye State home.
The feds aren’t presenting a united front when it comes to pushing EHR adoption. Even as CMS hands out stimulus cash, the Food & Drug Administration was prompted to mull HIT oversight by reports of six deaths and hundreds of adverse events attributed to the technology. Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, head of the FDA’s Center for Devices & Radiological Health, told a Congressional panel that the agency will take a close look at whether the software programs should face similar regulatory hurdles as medical devices.
Dr. David Blumenthal, the national coordinator for HIT at the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, called reports of deaths and adverse events “anecdotal and fragmented” at an appearance in Boston in April. Blumenthal said his department looked into the evidence and is confident that its mission remains unchanged in trying to push all healthcare establishments to adopt EMRs as a standard practice.
“The committee said that nothing it had found would give them any pause that a policy of introducing EMRs could impede patient safety,” he said.