New IT Pilot Program Is Good for Medicare
Mike Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, announced this week that a $150 million pilot program is being launched to improve the efficiency and accuracy of medical records by encouraging physicians to begin using electronic databases to track medical records and patient care. This program, specific to Medicare, is targeted at 1,200 small practices in 12 regions of the U.S. The program is expected to begin slowly over the next few months and should be fully up and running in 2009. As an incentive to participate in this program, Medicare payments will be increased for physicians who demonstrate they are implementing and utilizing electronic records systems. Eventually, the systems will be used to track and monitor quality-of-care standards and physicians who use the systems for this particular purpose will be receive additional increases in physician payments. Leavitt explained that the cost of increased payments will be largely offset by the savings brought by using electronic systems and, eventually, improvements in health information technology will redefine the U.S. healthcare system.
The 12 regions participating in the pilot program are Jacksonville, FL; Pittsburgh, PA; Madison, WI; Alabama; Delaware, Washington D.C.; Georgia; Maine; Louisiana; Oklahoma; South Dakota; and Virginia.
This is a great initiative not only for Medicare, but for the future of the healthcare system in this nation. Using electronic health record systems will improve accuracy of records by eliminating transcription errors, reducing delays in service and prescriptions, and generally improving the ability to locate and navigate through complicated files. Although there is some concern over privacy (as always with the shift to electronic sources), it should be noted that Americans use electronic record systems for online banking, confidential communications, and other highly personal transactions. So long as the federal government is willing to consistently upgrade electronic systems and find better ways to protect patient privacy, there should be limited concerns over the new program considering the value they add to the delivery of quality healthcare.
As for the Medicare Set-Aside industry, this new pilot program demonstrates not only a willingness but a solid effort from government policy makers to improve the delivery of healthcare and accuracy of patient information. As these changes are made, it is anticipated that eventually MSA submissions may follow suit with more efficient and user-friendly ways to submit MSAs and improve the turnaround time on approvals, ultimately benefitting not only the claimant/plaintiff, but the attorneys and insurers as well. This new pilot program comes at a good time as the change in reporting requirements under the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007 is expected to have a huge impact on the influx of liability and no-fault claims reporting.
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