The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office of Minority Health, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), and North Shore Medical Labs, Inc., of Williston Park, NY, today announced a demonstration project to foster broader adoption and use of electronic health records (EHRs) and support national efforts to reduce health disparities affecting minorities.
AHIMA will provide free health IT training to providers and staff in underserved communities, and North Shore will donate electronic health record (EHR) software and services through Nortec Software, Inc. The demonstration program will assist physicians in small practices in Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina.
"The Office of Minority Health is pleased to support another innovative and timely health IT project in the growing portfolio of important work on health disparities," said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health Garth N. Graham, MD. "We congratulate both AHIMA and North Shore Medical Labs for creating and coordinating this effort, and hope this initiative will stimulate more efforts to extend the use of EHRs in smaller practices and underserved communities that face special challenges in acquiring and implementing this technology."
AHIMA will provide six hours of web-based training on health IT to providers who work in underserved communities. Approximately 100 providers who complete the training will receive EHR licenses, including subscription fees, for 12 months. Nortec will help integrate the necessary information technology components within participating physician practices.
"AHIMA values participating in public private partnerships, particularly when, as in this case, we join public and private enterprise to apply the fundamentals of health information management in a targeted and specific way to tackle a significant public health disparity," said Bonnie Cassidy, MPA, RHIA,
president of AHIMA. "This is meaningful work that will provide a tangible public good of improving access in these communities to quality healthcare data and contributing to better patient outcomes."
Data from the 2005-2006 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and National Hospital Ambulatory Medicare Care Survey show that EHR adoption is lower among providers serving uninsured, non-Hispanic black patients than among providers serving privately insured, non-Hispanic white patients, and among providers serving Hispanic patients who are uninsured or rely on Medicaid.
North Shore Medical Labs, Inc. will donate approximately 75 percent of the cost of the Nortec EHR licenses, program integration, monthly subscription fees, as well as discounted education and training. Since 2006, an exception to the Federal Stark Law and Anti-Kickback Statute has permitted the donation of certain EHR arrangements but requires recipients to pay a small proportion of donor costs.
"North Shore is honored to participate in this meaningful program and collaborate with HHS, AHIMA and Nortec Software to donate this much needed technology to practitioners in underserved communities," said Abid Sheikh, CEO of North Shore Medical Labs, Inc. "Nortec EHR technology affords the practitioner an integrated EHR solution, coupled with Patient Portal which allows patients to access their medical records to improve patient care, enhance practice performance, and increase treatment efficiency.
Provider recruitment efforts will be conducted by the Mississippi Institute for Improvement of Geographic Minority Health, which focuses on key indicators of health status in Mississippi and targets mechanisms to increase the knowledge surrounding these conditions along with strategies to improve them, and the North Carolina Health Information Management Association (NCHIMA), which works to advance professional practice and standards for effective management and security of health information across the continuum of care.
A health care provider who wishes to participate in this initiative must:
Practice in a Medically Underserved Area (MUA) or Health Provider Shortage Area (HPSA) designated by HHS;
Have an Internet connection and use an electronic billing system;
Be a small practice group of one to five providers or a Federally Qualified Health Center within the MUA and/or PSA.
Be eligible to receive "meaningful use" incentives, as defined by the HITECH Act; and
Complete an initial application and submit monthly reports.
AHIMA and North Shore responded to an October 2010 invitation from the department to the vendor community to work with HHS to help reduce health information technology disparities.