Medicare reveals healthcare IT initiatives to improve healthcare

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) this week said it is actively working on initiatives to promote the adoption of electronic health records (EHR), nationwide electronic drug prescribing, and other health information technologies to improve the quality and reduce the costs of healthcare, and to provide more personalized services for beneficiaries.

As part of the campaign, CMS said it plans to introduce an Internet-based portal for people with Medicare to access their claims information, accelerate the e-prescribing timeline mandated by the Medicare Modernization Act of 2004 (MMA), and encourage the adoption of EHR systems, particularly in physicians' offices.

CMS said it will pilot test an Internet portal that will provide beneficiaries direct web access to their Medicare claims information, including claims type, dates of service, and procedures in a way that will protect their privacy and the security of their information. By the end of the year, information on preventive services will be added. The pilot test will be conducted in Indiana and begin this year, said CMS.

The electronic drug prescribing initiative will accelerate the nationwide adoption of e-prescribing in Medicare, which is expected to accelerate e-prescribing throughout the nation's health care system. The MMA provides that e-prescribing based on national standards be mandatory for drug plans participating in the new Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit by 2009, although CMS said it expects to require an initial set of well-established standards by January 2006 when the Medicare benefit begins.

CMS also is reviewing existing programs for e-prescribing nationwide, to identify the most promising features that can be adopted more widely in conjunction with the new drug benefit. Participation by physicians in e-prescribing will be optional, but established standards and steps to encourage effective programs will make e-prescribing more attractive.

Finally, in an effort to facilitate the adoptions of EHRs, CMS said it has joined a national alliance of purchasers and payers to work with them in their effort to create a common agenda for the promotion of HIT adoption. CMS will conduct demonstration programs to determine how financial incentives may encourage EHR adoption in physician offices, and the consequences for the quality and cost of healthcare.