Georgia Pledges Support for Conversion to Electronic Health Records

By: Pamela Keene
By: Pamela Keene
doctor is measuring the pulse of her patient

doctor is measuring the pulse of her patient

ATLANTA -- September 2, 2011

Registration for Georgia’s Medicaid Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentives Program is slated to open on September 5, 2011. The program is a partnership among the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH).

The State of Georgia will provide leadership and support to rapidly ramp up the benefits of EHR for all patients and health care providers, according to Kelly Gonzalez, the Interim State Health Information Technology (HIT) Coordinator for DCH.

Gonzalez made the pledge as a nationwide program for provider incentive payments got underway earlier this year. Under the program, hospitals, doctors and other health care providers may qualify for significant Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments that will help support conversion from paper-based medical records to EHRs. The Medicare Incentive Program is administered by CMS, while the Medicaid Incentive Program is administered at the state level.

Benefits of EHRs

“Electronic health records can help improve quality and safety of care, and they can make delivery of care more efficient and effective for providers,” said David Cook, DCH Commissioner. “Adoption and meaningful use of EHRs by all providers will be a big challenge, and states have an important role in helping to bring about that transition.”

In particular, states are providing leadership to facilitate the technical and legal infrastructure for Health Information Exchange, the secure exchange of information from individual health records. Electronic exchange of health information will be one of the primary benefits of EHRs, enabling critical patient information to be available at the point of care in order to improve care coordination, increase patient engagement and decrease medical errors.

Statewide Coordination

In addition, each State HIT Coordinator works closely with each state Medicaid program and with stakeholders statewide, including provider and patient organizations and EHR vendors, to support rapid adoption of EHRs. The State HIT Coordinators are also the state’s principal liaison with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, located in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“One of my key roles is to assist in the coordination and alignment of all of the important investment and support in Georgia,” Gonzalez said. “This will help providers adopt electronic health records and achieve meaningful use, from on-the-ground support for providers to workforce training to health information exchange to broadband expansions.”

So far, 41 percent of office-based physicians in the U.S. intend to adopt EHRs in place of paper medical records and take advantage of federal incentives for achieving meaningful use of those records, according to survey data released by the ONC at HHS. Nationally, 81 percent of hospitals also intend to make meaningful use of EHRs and qualify for the incentive payments.

Under the HITECH Act of 2009, support totaling up to $27 billion over 10 years has been authorized to help support the nation’s health care providers to adopt and use EHRs. Incentive payments for physicians may total as much as $44,000 through Medicare or up to $63,750 through Medicaid. Hospitals may receive a base amount plus a calculated formula amount.

EHR Program Assistance

In addition to incentive payments, customized assistance is available to providers, especially smaller primary care practices and small hospitals, through Regional Extension Centers (RECs) supported by the ONC. In Georgia, REC support is available from the Georgia Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center (GA-HITREC). For more information about GA-HITREC, please visit www.ga-hitrec.org or call 404-752-1015 or 877-658-1990.

Providers can obtain further information about Georgia’s Medicaid EHR Incentives Program from the Georgia Department of Community Health’s Office of Health Information Technology via email at medicaidincentives@dch.ga.gov or at www.dch.georgia.gov/ehr.

About the Georgia Department of Community Health

The Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) conducts the business of health care for Georgians. Through effective planning, purchasing and oversight, DCH provides access to affordable, quality health care to millions of Georgians, including some of the state’s most vulnerable and under-served populations.

DCH is responsible for Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids®, the State Health Benefit Plan, Healthcare Facility Regulation and Health Information Technology in Georgia.

David A. Cook serves as Commissioner for the Georgia Department of Community Health.

To learn more about DCH and its dedication to A Healthy Georgia, visit www.dch.georgia.gov.

To learn more about the Georgia Medicaid EHR Incentives Program, visit www.dch.georgia.gov/ehr.


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