Blue Cross helps 750 N.C. docs adopt EHRs

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is collaborating with Chicago-based Allscripts to provide EHRs software to more than 750 North Carolina physicians, including more than 150 physicians in 39 free clinics.

The initiative, called the North Carolina Program to Advance Technology for Health (NC PATH), also provides training and ongoing support for the practices to implement a certified EHR, work toward achieving meaningful use status and becoming recognized as a patient-centered medical home (PCMH).

Participating physician practices receive support toward earning PCMH recognition, which has shown to enhance quality and managing costs. BCBSNC, working with the N.C. Area Health Education Centers (NC AHEC) Regional Extension Center program, will assist practices in identifying quality improvement opportunities within their practices to achieve PCMH recognition.

In addition, BCBSNC is working with the N.C. Health Information Exchange (NC HIE) to create a program that will support and enable all participating providers to connect to the HIE so they can share data among providers.

BCBSNC is investing $15 million into the NC PATH program with Allscripts sharing in the cost. The investment allows BCBSNC to cover 85 percent of the software and setup costs for 600 physicians in eligible independent practices and 100 percent of the costs for 39 eligible clinics over the next five years.

Participation in NC PATH could help physicians meet provisions of the HITECH Act, including:

  • Adoption of certified EHR technology to support 'meaningful use' requirements.
  • Eligibility for up to $44,000 in meaningful use EHR incentive payments under the HITECH Act. This is in addition to the BCBSNC subsidy.
  • NC AHEC Regional Extension Center support in achieving meaningful use before the 2015 deadline, which avoids potential reductions in Medicare reimbursements.

As part of the initiative, BCBSNC is providing support to NC AHEC to work with practices on-site to help identify and implement the improvements necessary for the PCMH process. Patients of PCMH-recognized practices commonly experience increased quality of care results, including more than 50 percent fewer visits to specialists and 70 percent fewer emergency room visits, lower radiology costs and shorter average lengths of stay in hospitals.