Thursday, June 30, 2011

HHS Seeks Public Input on Draft Data Collection Standards

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published draft data collection standards of race, ethnicity, sex, primary language and disability status information. HHS is requesting public comment on the standards.

The data collection is mandated by a section of the Affordable Care Act. The purpose of the provision is to help identify and address health disparities affecting various communities.

“Health disparities have persistent and costly affects for minority communities, and the whole country,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius upon release of the draft standards. “Today we are taking critical steps toward ensuring the collection of useful national data on minority groups, including for the first time, LGBT populations. The data we will eventually collect in these efforts will serve as powerful tools and help us in our fight to end health disparities.”

The draft standards may be viewed by clicking here. The period for public comment closes on August 1.

Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Press Release

Monday, June 27, 2011

EHR Helpful in Assisting Disaster Relief Victims

According to a post on the Office of the National Coordinator's (ONC) Health IT Buzz Blog, electronic health records (EHR) proved to be "invaluable" in assisting victims of the May 22 tornado that hit Joplin, MO.

"One of Joplin’s hospitals, St. John’s Regional Medical Center, was heavily damaged," by the tornado, says the blog post, written by National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari and Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Nicole Lurie.

"Five patients and a visitor died in the storm, and the building is closed awaiting repair. Paper records and x-rays were lost. Yet just six days after the tornado, the hospital staff was at work again in a new temporary mobile medical unit (purchased in part, coincidently, with HHS hospital preparedness program funds). They were delivering care with full access to their electronic patient records."

Farzad and Lurie report that St. John's had transitioned to EHR just 3 weeks before the storm hit.

Source: Health IT Buzz Blog

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CMS Announces Use of New Technology to Fight Fraud

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that starting July 1, it will begin using a new predictive modeling technology to fight Medicare fraud. Similar to technology used by credit card companies, predictive modeling helps identify potentially fraudulent Medicare claims on a nationwide basis, and help stop fraudulent claims before they are paid. This initiative is designed to build upon anti-fraud tools and resources provided by the Affordable Care Act to help move CMS beyond its former “pay & chase” recovery operations to an approach that focuses on preventing fraud and abuse before payment is made.

“Today’s announcement is bad news for criminals looking to take advantage of our seniors and defraud Medicare,” said CMS Administrator Donald Berwick, M.D. “This new technology will help us better identify and prevent fraud and abuse before it happens and helps to ensure the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund.”

More information on the predictive modeling and HHS’ effort to detect fraud and abuse are available at and through its news portal at, made available by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Source: CMS Press Release

National Library of Medicine launches MedlinePlus Connect

The National Library of Medicine, the world’s largest medical library and a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has formally launched MedlinePlus Connect. This free service allows health organizations and health information technology (HIT) providers to link patient portals and electronic health record (EHR) systems to, a trusted source of authoritative, up-to-date health information for patients, families and health care providers. MedlinePlus brings together information from NIH, other federal agencies, and reputable health information providers. MedlinePlus covers a wide range of health conditions and wellness issues, and includes key resources to inform patients about their health.

Patients using portals or EHRs that have implemented MedlinePlus Connect can access easy-to-understand health information on MedlinePlus that is directly related to their diagnoses, medications, and lab tests.

To use MedlinePlus Connect, an organization should contact their EHR vendor or work with their in-house technical staff to follow the instructions in the technical documentation. Full details, including an online demonstration, are available at MedlinePlus Connect accepts the coding standards already in the organization’s system, such as ICD-9-CM, SNOMED CT CORE Problem List Subset, RxNorm, NDC, and LOINC. MedlinePlus Connect only needs to be set up once and NLM regularly maintains the vocabulary mappings and topic links.

Since MedlinePlus Connect helps EHRs identify patient-specific education resources, MedlinePlus Connect may assist eligible health care providers in meeting one of the criteria for meaningful use of certified EHR technology. Health care providers must meet a number of criteria to demonstrate meaningful use in order to qualify for Medicare or Medicaid EHR incentive payments under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

MedlinePlus Connect can now serve any heath IT system that uses the HL7 Infobutton Standard.

Source: HHS Press Release

Monday, June 20, 2011

JCR Announces Upcoming Hospital Executive Briefings

The Joint Commission has announced its schedule of 2012 Hospital Executive Briefings on hospital accreditation and safety. Briefings will take place on September 9, 2011 in New York, September 15, 2011 in Dallas, September 21, 2011 in Costa Mesa, CA, and September 26, 2011 in Chicago. Attendance at the briefings is appropriate for hospital executives, chief nursing officers, risk managers, quality improvement managers, accreditation managers, patient safety officers, chief medical officers, board members, and medical staff members involved with accreditation, quality improvement, and risk management processes in their hospital.

For more information about the briefings, please click here.

Source: The Joint Commission

ONC Clarifies EHR Certification Rules

A posting on the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology's(ONC) Health IT Buzz Blog seeks to provide clarity on regulations pertaining to electronic health record (EHR) certification modules.

The post indicates that there is a lot of confusion about EHR certification procedures and seeks to clarify a few of the regulations that have been misinterpreted.

Source: Health IT Buzz Blog

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Obama Administration Releases National Prevention Strategy

Members of the National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council, including Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin (Chair), as well as Senator Tom Harkin and Domestic Policy Council (DPC) Director Melody Barnes, announced the release of the National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy, a comprehensive plan designed to help increase the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life. The strategy was developed by the National Prevention Council, which is composed of 17 federal agencies who consulted with outside experts and stakeholders.

The National Prevention Strategy includes actions that public and private partners can take to help Americans stay healthy and fit and improve our nation’s prosperity. The strategy outlines four strategic directions that, together, are fundamental to improving the nation’s health. Those four strategic directions are:

The National Prevention Strategy was developed with guidance from the public and is supported by the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health as called for under the Affordable Care Act. Through listening sessions at national and regional meetings, webinars, and town hall meetings across the country, the advisory group and the public had the opportunity to work with the council members to craft the strategy. The National Prevention Council, the advisory group, and private and public partners will work together to help implement the strategy at the national, state, tribal, and local levels and recognize the importance of actively engaging all sectors of society in improving the health and well-being of our communities.

More information on the National Prevention Strategy and the National Prevention Council can be found by clicking here.

Source: HHS Press Release

HHS OIG Releases 16 HEAT Provider Compliance Online Learning Modules

As a part of its Healthcare Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) program, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released 16 online training modules for health providers to to learn about Medicare fraud and how to implement an effective compliance program.

Providers have the option of watching all of the modules at once in a 3 hour 45 minute segment. Additional printed materials are available. All of the training materials are offered free of charge.
All of the training materials are available by clicking here.

Source: HHS Office of the Inspector General News Release

Monday, June 13, 2011

HHS Releases Public Health Emergency Text Messaging Toolkit

A new toolkit of prepared cell phone text messages advising people how to protect their health after a disaster was released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These messages support state and local emergency managers in disaster response and are available online at

To develop the public health emergency text message content, HHS experts worked with state and local agencies. The content, approved by subject matter experts, complements 30-second public service announcements for radio and television available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The text messages cover a wide range of actions people can take to protect their health.

Messages are limited to 115 characters or fewer including spaces. Emergency responders can use the messages as they are or tailor the messages based on specific local needs. The toolkit currently features text messages relevant to hurricanes, floods and earthquakes.

Local and state agencies register their interest in using the toolkit by providing contact information to HHS, so they can receive alerts and updates as the content expands to include health tips for additional types of disasters. More than 400 agencies have registered so far.

The text message toolkit is a collaborative effort of five U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ divisions: the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Source: Department of Health and Human Services Press Release

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Free AHRQ Web-conference to Explore Health IT’s Role in Caring for Elderly, Chronically Ill

On Tuesday, June 21, 2011, from 11:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., E.S.T., the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ) National Resource Center for Health IT (NRC) will host a free Web-based teleconference on Medication Management Using Health IT for the Care of Elderly Patients.

During this 90-minute conference, participants can watch and listen as three presenters share their experiences, lessons learned, and insights into the potential of how various health information technology applications lend themselves to improving the quality and outcomes of treating elderly, chronic pain, and otherwise chronically ill patients.

To register for this free Web-based teleconference, please visit:


ONC Introduces Investing in Innovations (i2) Initiative

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) announced the Investing in Innovations (i2) Initiative – a program designed to spur innovations in health IT. The program centers on prizes and competitions to accelerate the development of solutions and communities around key challenges in health IT.

The i2 Initiative will consult stakeholders across the health care sector including hospitals, doctors, consumers, payers, states, employers, advocates, and relevant federal agencies to obtain direct input on execution and to build partnerships.

The core of the i2 Initiative is an effort to use prizes and challenges to facilitate innovation and obtain solutions to identified health IT challenges. Capital Consulting Corporation, Health 2.0 LLC, along with other contributors will help provide detailed and up-to-date analysis of relevant, emerging innovations and associated trends that will help ONC and other HHS agencies better understand these developments, as well as the issues that surround them.

Click here for more information about i2.