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Perspective: Tennessee HIE to provide EHR and e-prescribing to Mississippi Medicaid beneficiaries

From: Patty Enrado, NHINWatch.com

This December, Shared Health will begin rolling out a solution that will give Mississippi Medicaid providers a Web-based electronic health record (EHR) system and e-prescribing capability for the state’s nearly 600,000 Medicaid members.

The program, through a contract by the State of Mississippi’s Division of Medicaid, was designed to get physicians on the “road to EHRs,” said Bruce Taffel, MD, CMO of Shared Health, a health information exchange in Tennessee. “The big effort is to get something on the physician’s desktop,” he said, be it an EHR-Lite or a full-blown EHR.

Medicaid offers benefits and challenges, but because of the challenges there may be even greater benefits to computerized patient records, Taffel said. “This is an ideal environment because of the transitory nature of the population. You need greater liquidity of data across the geography,” he said.

With the main focus of Medicaid being women and children, the program will look at how the state can be assured that these groups are “getting the right care at the right time,” he said. EHRs will provide the infrastructure to support wellness care and care coordination.

Shared Health is also working with the Delta Health Alliance, which is assisting the approximately 900 physicians in the Mississippi Delta region with EHR technology. Busy rural and sub-rural practices are struggling with how EHRs apply to them, Taffel said. “Shared Health is trying to be the resource of information for doctors on why it’s important for them,” he said.

The $1.2 billion in additional funding for EHR adoption recently announced by Vice President Biden is a “positive thing,” he said. The funding of resource centers will enable support and dissemination of information for physicians.

“This is a fast-moving environment; everything’s happening at once,” he said. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will be sending out a letter to state Medicaid directors on how they will administer and pay the reimbursements under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Once those guidelines are released, states will be able to submit input for how to reward or incentivize physicians, he said.

With its expertise in HIPAA compliance and privacy and security issues, Shared Health has been involved in educating independent physician associations (IPAs) on the HIPAA ramifications in light of new responsibilities under ARRA.

“Many states have stepped up in a major way,” Taffel said. “This program is representative of where the states are pulling together and taking a leadership role.”

Down the road, these EHR systems will eventually feed into a health information exchange, “creating the door in every office for information to begin to flow,” Taffel said.

“States can do a lot through their Medicaid programs,” he said. “You are seeing other activities bubbling up under the state umbrella. Communities are coming together over how we deliver better care through the liquidity of data. There are all kinds of ways and uses for the liquidity of data to support community initiatives.”

“This is an important trend,” Taffel said. “States are a critical piece of this."