No matter how you divide it, $17 billion in federal health care stimulus money is a lot of dough. And health care information technology companies are poised to help hospitals and other providers obtain their share.
Whether by Web, phone, or other means, health care IT vendors are preparing current and potential customers to take advantage of incentive payments of up to $15,000 for adopting or upgrading electronic health records under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Eligible for the money are health care providers that implement certified EHR systems that meet specific criteria for “meaningful use,” such as using electronic prescribing and connecting to outside entities via health information exchanges.
With the first federal payments, Medicare incentives to eligible hospitals, just a year away, IT companies are reporting a flurry of activity to help customers secure stimulus funds and capitalize on their EHR investments. Following is a sampling of health care IT vendors’ modi operandi.
To varying degrees, most companies explain on their Web sites the ARRA’s HITECH Act, detailing the incentives available to physicians and hospitals. Elekta Impac Software’s Web site (www.elekta.com) provides the payment schedule, while NextGen Healthcare Information Systems’ site (www.nextgen.com) features a highly detailed matrix from the Department of Health and Human Services that maps out the core goals, objectives, and deadlines set by the legislation.
NextGen’s site and Elekta Impac Software’s sister Web site (www.impac.com) offer clients additional help via online calculators. Users of NextGen’s calculator can estimate potential stimulus revenue by inputting their practice’s specialty type and number of EHR system users. That estimate—defined as savings over five years—is based on a calculation that takes into account revenue from stimulus funds and other sources.
Elekta Impac Software’s calculator estimates a customer’s return on investment in the company’s Mosaiq Medical Oncology EHR system based on several factors, including number of physicians and patients, annual supply costs, total charges, and collections.
Orchard Software (www.orchardsoft.com) has posted on its Website a suggested reading list that addresses the stimulus act. Articles and links target those professionals involved in a health care organization’s decisionmaking about EHRs and stimulus funds. For example, hospital administrators worried about cost will find multiple articles about the return on investment generated by EHRs, while other articles address IT staff who need to make EHRs work with their lab and hospital information systems.
McKesson Provider Technologies’ Website (www.mckesson.com) includes links that take users to a discussion of meaningful use provided by the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems, funding opportunities posted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and technical information from HHS’ Health Information Technology Policy Committee and the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology.
Webinars and videos
NextGen has organized several free Webinars on topics related to the HITECH Act. An August 13 live Webinar, for example, focused on meaningful use and certification.
To reach even more health care professionals, NextGen posts to YouTube videos that offer updates on the stimulus act. The videos, which are approximately three minutes long, educate physicians about HITECH Act incentives and requirements and highlight how the federal debate over health care reform will impact stimulus funds. The videos can be accessed from the company’s Web site.
For those who want to ask questions about the HITECH Act one-on-one, without leaving their office, Antek HealthWare is offering compli-mentary telephone consulting services. Antek’s EHR advisor, Elizabeth Diable-Chanthinith, answers questions about the legislation and offers advice. Callers typically want to know how specifically to apply and qualify for stimulus funds, how EHRs interact with other software systems, and whether it’s better to implement EHRs now or after stimulus money becomes available, Diable-Chanthinith says.
Using McKesson Provider Technologies’ physician hotline, callers can obtain information about the legislation, discuss their EHR needs, and get advice on implementing an EHR system. Calls are directed to staff members with technical, medical, or nursing backgrounds, depending on the nature of the questions. Callers, says McKesson spokesman Yancey Casey, generally have been seeking advice on how to qualify for stimulus funds and clarification on the definition of meaningful use.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has released the 2009 update to its “Health Information Technology Evaluation Toolkit,” a step-by-step guide for evaluating potential health information technology projects.
The guide is intended to help IT project managers determine the cost, risks and benefits, and effectiveness of potential information technology investments and set project goals. It offers examples of various types of IT projects, such as implementing systems for telepathology, computerized provider order entry, or picture archiving and communications, and recommends evaluation methods for each. The guide details measures for determining clinical outcomes, clinical processes, provider adoption and attitudes, and impact on workflow and finances. The up-dated version also includes links to articles about evaluating health information systems in various domains.
A PDF of the guide can be downloaded from http://healthit.ahrq.gov.
Sigma Blood Systems has introduced its Sigma Blood Software Suite, which is composed of Blood Tracker, Platelet Manager, and QC Manager with an accompanying qualification performance module.
Blood Tracker speeds the storage and retrieval of specimens and blood samples and manages the inventory of blood bags and units in blood centers. It provides real-time reporting, multi-level security, container-management functionality, and the ability to time-stamp every activity. Blood Tracker can help with tube management pertaining to testing for parvovirus and Chagas disease.
Platelet Manager is workflow and support software to assist blood centers with their platelet production. It helps blood centers improve the consistency of their manufacturing process for platelet pheresis established through the blood center’s operating and validation procedures.
QC Manager uses Six Sigma-based principles to help blood centers automate and track their quality control process for blood components. Using the qualification performance module’s ScanStatistics feature, blood centers can detect systemwide failures on various levels.
Each standalone software module can be deployed on site or as a secured Web application. The modules contain proprietary audit functionality to track changes to data.
Sigma Blood Systems consulted with the Oklahoma Blood Institute to develop the software suite.
BD Biosciences has launched its BD FacsLink laboratory information system interface. The product is intended to help laboratories that use BD clinical flow cytometry instruments handle test orders more efficiently.
With BD FacsLink, laboratory professionals can create work lists containing downloaded LIS test orders for BD’s FacsCanto, FacsCanto II, and FacsCalibur flow cytometers, as well as the company’s Facs Sample Prep Assistant II. Users can transfer reviewed results from the instrument software to the LIS with no manual entry.
The connectivity solution also includes remote-access capability, enabling users to create a work list or transfer analyzed and reviewed results from any BD workstation in the laboratory.
BD FacsLink is powered by Data Innovations’ Instrument Manager middleware software.
The AABB has announced that it will place on conditional accreditation status all AABB-accredited facilities that have not implemented ISBT 128 symbology for labeling blood and blood components by Nov. 1.
Facilities given conditional accreditation are not listed as accredited institutions on the AABB Web site and cannot ship blood or blood products through the AABB’s National Blood Exchange resource-sharing program. Furthermore, the AABB will share with other accrediting bodies and regulatory agencies the names of those institutions with conditional accreditation status.
ISBT 128 is an alphanumeric, high-density symbology that replaces the outdated Codabar standard. Continued use of Codabar “creates a national blood supply that is divided by two labeling systems, which poses serious concerns in the event of a disaster,” according to “AABB Asso-ciation Bulletin #09-05.”
Implementation of ISBT 128 by Nov. 1 is required by the 25th edition of the Standards for Blood Banks and Transfusion Services, published by the AABB.
Valley View Regional Hospital, Ada, Okla., has contracted with Aspyra to upgrade to the current release of Aspyra’s CyberLab laboratory information system, version 7.2, and CyberPath anatomic pathology system. The hospital, which has been an Aspyra customer since 2002, is managed by Mercy Health System of Oklahoma and operates a satellite clinic in Stratford, Okla.
Naples (Fla.) Community Blood Center has licensed the latest version of Mediware Information Systems’ LifeTrak donor management system. The blood center is part of the Naples Community Hospital Healthcare System.
Dr. Aller is director of automated disease surveillance and team lead for disaster preparedness Focus B, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. He can be reached at email@example.com. Hal Weiner is president of Weiner Consulting Services, LLC, Florence, Ore. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.