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CMS backs interoperability for long-term care facilities, behavioral health

A new initiative permits states to request the 90 percent enhanced matching funds to connect a broader variety of Medicaid providers to a health information exchange.
By Bill Siwicki
05:11 PM

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Wednesday said it will permit states to request 90 percent enhanced matching funds to help other healthcare providers such as long-term care facilities, behavioral health providers and  substance abuse treatment centers purchase interoperable technology.

The initiative will help bridge an information sharing gap in Medicaid by CMS to connect a broader variety of Medicaid providers to a health information exchange. This additional funding will help sustain health information exchanges and lead to increased connectivity among Medicaid providers, CMS said.

[Also: Slavitt, DeSalvo: Health IT has to work better for doctors]

“The great promise of technology is to bring information to our fingertips, connect us to one another, improve our productivity and create a platform for the next generation of innovations,” said Andy Slavitt, CMS acting administrator, and Karen DeSalvo, the national coordinator for health information technology and acting assistant secretary for health, in an official CMS blog post Wednesday. 

“Technology, when widely distributed and available, enables providers to improve patient care by distributing information and best practices and leading to better experiences of care for individuals in the healthcare system. And technology can make a significant difference in the rapidly modernizing Medicaid program.”

Slavitt alluded to the announcement Tuesday night during a presentation with DeSalvo at the 2016 Annual HIMSS Conference and Exhibition in Las Vegas, where he said, “We’re announcing funding to connect many of the remaining parts of the system that are not part of the EHR incentive programs but serve our neediest patients every day. Finally, we are going to wire up long-term care, behavioral health and substance abuse providers.”

The free flow of information is hampered when not all doctors, facilities or other practice areas are able to make a complete circuit, CMS said. Adding long-term care providers, behavioral health providers and substance abuse treatment providers, for example, to statewide health information exchanges will enable sharing of patients’ health data between doctors and other clinicians when needed, helping to create a more complete care team to collaborate on the best treatment plans and goals for Medicaid patients, CMS added.

“Today’s announcement is another example of how Medicaid is leading change for its beneficiaries and throughout the healthcare system,” Slavitt and DeSalvo said. “But this is more than a technology initiative. It is part of a comprehensive effort to make sure that the 72 million adults, children, seniors and people with disabilities served by the Medicaid program have access to high quality, coordinated care. Improving population health and addressing the needs of complex populations requires strong health information technology tools.”

Slavitt and DeSalvo expect a variety of benefits from the new initiative, benefits from care coordination to medication reconciliation to public health reporting. For example, exchanging care data can support patients with multiple chronic conditions as they visit specialists, hospitals, primary care practices, home health care providers and pharmacies, the two executives said.

“CMS and ONC look forward to partnering with and supporting states in these and other critical efforts to modernize and connect the Medicaid program for the millions of beneficiaries they serve,” Slavitt and DeSalvo said.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT

This story is part of our ongoing coverage of the HIMSS16 conference. Follow our live blog for real-time updates, and visit Destination HIMSS16 for a full rundown of our reporting from the show. For a selection of some of the best social media posts of the show, visit our Trending at #HIMSS16 hub.