New grant program in Massachusetts aims at improving HIE

New grant program offers Massachusetts medical providers chance to enhance HIE

For everything from small specialty practices to large hospitals, electronic health records are becoming a necessity for improving patient care quality and ensuring that staffs are productive through enhanced workflows. With the new stage 3 meaningful use requirements not far off in the distance and the ICD-10 implementation date just a few short months away, EHR adoption is crucial to the success providers have at adapting to these major changes. 

However, for EHRs to work as efficiently as they can, health information exchange must be effective. Health information exchange institutions are developed to advance coordinated care, enhance public health outcomes and provide high-quality medical services. Certified EHR systems have and will continue to improve the way that health professionals in various care settings communicate if the industry continues to work toward better interoperability and health information exchange.

Grant aims to strengthen communication channels
To help push improved health information exchange along, the Massachusetts eHealth Institute at MassTech recently developed a new grant program aimed at improving channels of communication throughout certain medical facilities in various regions of Massachusetts. 

According to the public entity's press release, the grant program will be called the Connected Communities Implementation Grant Program and will work with groups to create effective health information exchange. The program is currently accepting proposals from participating groups that outline their ideas on how to most effectively strengthen communication channels throughout the state.

The goal behind this program and similar types of health care reforms is to assist providers in enhancing their workflows and push them to find ways to solve any problems they may have with coordinated care and the transition of care. If the grant is successful, providers throughout the state will achieve better patient outcomes, lower health care costs and better care quality.

"The Connected Communities Grant Program provides us with an opportunity to support impactful health IT programs driven by the priorities in individual communities," Laurance Stuntz, director of MeHI, stated in a press release. "Through this approach, our hope is to receive proposals that identify region-specific roadblocks to sharing information, engage a broad cross-section of healthcare stakeholders, and address the unique needs of patients in that community through the use of technology."

Medical providers urged to submit proposals
One of the key components to improving health information exchange is the cooperation of medical facilities in the area. This is especially important for behavioral health services and acute and long-term care providers. To ensure that essential partnerships remain strong, the grant program is asking that at least one specialty provider in one of these three areas contributes by sending a proposal.

The practices that are chosen for the grant will receive as much as $25,000 from the MeHI. However, before receiving the grant, the participants will have to create an action plan, outline a "use case" and provide detailed health information exchange pathways in diagram form. They must also develop a budget plan for future costs. 

"Finding ways to improve information sharing and real-time data capabilities, while enhancing providers' ability to treat patients at the community level, will go a long way toward helping the Commonwealth meet its healthcare cost reduction goals," David Seltz, executive director of the Health Policy Commission, said in a public statement. "We look forward to continuing our work with MeHI and other stakeholders to build a stronger healthcare system."

If the program is successful, provider access to clinically essential data, such as discharge plans and laboratory results, reduced hospital readmissions and improved health care outcomes will be improved. All health providers throughout Massachusetts who are looking to strengthen their health information exchange capabilities should send a proposal to MeHI by July 1.