New HHS initiative places heavy emphasis on EHR use

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services continues to employ the strategy of encouraging the adoption of electronic health records without relying on the Meaningful Use program, this time by putting major emphasis on electronic health records and interoperability into its new Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative.

The initiative, announced Oct. 23, will award $840 million for the creation of evidence-based, peer-led collaboratives and networks to support physicians, as reported by FierceHealthcare. The two types of networks, Practice Transformation Networks and Support and Alignment Networks, are expected to support 150,000 clinicians beginning May 1, 2015.  

Those selected to be part of the Practice Transformation Network will be expected to "[p]romote the interoperability and effective use of registries, electronic health records and other practice management systems, while maintaining privacy and security of patient health information, to improve coordination of care delivery between primary and specialty practices, facilitating improved patient outcomes; and assess the practices' progress in addressing Meaningful Use."

Similarly, the organizations that will participate in the Support and Alignment Networks will also work to promote evidence-based quality measures collected via registries and EHRs, and will support data sharing among different providers.

Applicants are highly encouraged to submit nonbinding letters of intent by Nov. 20.

This is not the first time that HHS has included EHRs as an incentive or requirement beyond the Meaningful Use program. Accountable care organizations participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program were required to use EHRs in order to participate; EHR users got preference in participating in a primary care physician pilot in 2012.

However, the government has used this tactic more frequently in recent months. The proposed 2015 physician fee schedule would require that physicians use EHR technology certified to the most recent version of certification in order to be reimbursed for chronic care management, a suggestion that has been decried by provider groups. Even providers not eligible for the Meaningful Use program are being encouraged by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in their respective fee schedules to adopt EHRs.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement

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