Nov 25, 2011 (03:11 AM EST)
Insurer's Dollars Push Specialists Onto EHR Highway

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7 Patient Education Tools
7 Patient Education Tools
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Health insurance provider Capital District Physicians Health Plan (CDPHP) recently announced that it will offer $1 million to help 800 specialists within its network implement health IT. The money builds on more than $10 million that the company has already invested to help its providers digitize their medical records and support interoperability of clinical data.

Officials at the Albany, N.Y.-based health plan said the latest awards will pay for consultation services to help specialists select electronic health records (EHRs), attest to Meaningful Use, and connect to the Health Information Exchange of New York (HIXNY).

For specialists who are further along in their EHR installations and preparing to connect to the HIXNY, CDPHP will cover costs for a two-year subscription to the HIE.

In a previous round of funding, CDPHP awarded 73 primary care practices with grants to help them meet Meaningful Use criteria.

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Why the need to reach out to specialists? "This is a necessary investment because the specialists we are targeting receive referrals from the 73 primary care practices that we've funded in previous initiatives," Dr. Bruce Nash, senior VP of medical affairs and chief medical officer at CDPHP, told InformationWeek Healthcare. "We're looking to leverage that to create an interoperable data flow between these two groups of providers which will help raise the quality of care for our members."

CDPHP has 11,000 providers in its network and serves 350,000 members in 24 New York counties. The health plan helps fund the HIXNY and has assisted many primary care practices as they work toward qualifying to become patient-centered medical homes.

According to Nash, CDPHP's effort to get specialists connected to the HIXNY aims to meet two objectives: first, they want to help the specialists exchange patient data with other clinical colleagues, and second, they want to help HIXNY develop a sustainable business strategy that requires physicians to pay a monthly fee for participating in the HIE.

"For an HIE to be sustainable there has to be some sort of revenue model and the users of it need to be willing to pay for it over time. Currently, many physicians in our network don't see the value as yet because they're not connected to HIXNY," Nash said. "We believe that by paying their fees we can remove barriers, and once we get this up and running physicians will see the value of the HIXNY and want to pay for it themselves."

Of course, CDPHP isn't the only health insurance plan committing funds to help providers adopt health IT. Blue Shield of California recently announced awards totaling nearly $20 million to help 18 California hospitals, health systems, clinics, and physician groups adopt EHRs, establish HIE interoperability, and support clinical system integration among physicians. And Humana, recently announced it would join forces with Allscripts Health Care Solutions. Under that initiative, Humana provides financial assistance to physicians that adopt Allscripts' EHR.

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