March 14, 2016 — The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC HIT) announced a new initiative to improve interoperability between Medicaid providers. The initiative, announced by CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt and ONC Karen DeSalvo, is designed to improve patient care by distributing information and best practices to provide a better experience of care for individuals in the health system.
The program will include long-term care, behavioral health providers, substance abuse treatment centers and other providers that have been slower to adopt technology. This announcement will help to bridge an information sharing gap in Medicaid by permitting states to request the 90 percent enhanced matching funds from CMS to connect a broader variety of Medicaid providers to a health information exchange than those providers who are eligible for such connections today. This additional funding will enhance the sustainability of health information exchanges and lead to increased connectivity among Medicaid providers.
Doctors and other clinicians need access to the right information at the right time in a manner they can use to make decisions that impact their patient’s health. The free flow of information is hampered when not all doctors, facilities or other practice areas are able to make a complete circuit. Adding long-term care providers, behavioral health providers and substance abuse treatment providers, for example, to statewide health information exchange systems will enable seamless sharing of a patients’ health information between doctors or other clinicians when it’s needed. This sharing helps create a more complete care team to collaborate on the best treatment plans and goals for Medicaid patients.
The benefits are tangible – from care coordination to medication reconciliation to public health reporting. Exchanging care information can support patients with multiple chronic conditions as they navigate specialists, hospitals, primary care, home healthcare and pharmacies. Medication reconciliation for children in the foster care system avoids duplicative or missed treatments. And, public health reporting sounds the warning bell on potential public health disasters and improves the use of preventive measures, such as immunizations. This investment should also speed the adoption of alternative payment models that focus on the quality rather than the quantity of care provided. As the Medicaid program moves towards paying for quality, technology infrastructure and information exchange is needed for better care coordination.