Louisiana Gov. Jindal Joins HHS Secretary to Announce Electronic Health Record Demo

"This federal funding will allow the Forum to provide financial incentives to Louisiana physicians who use electronic health records to improve the quality of care they provide their patients."

by / June 12, 2008

Photo: Gov. Jindal is joined (from l to r) by HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt and DHH Secretary Alan Levine.

Yesterday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal welcomed HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt to Louisiana and joined him in announcing that the state has been selected to take part in a national Medicare demonstration project that provides incentive payments to physicians for using certified electronic health records (EHR) to improve the quality of patient care. The five-year, first-of-its-kind project is expected to improve the quality of care provided to an estimated 3.6 million Americans.

"I congratulate Louisiana on this achievement, which demonstrates the state's strong commitment to improving health care starting at the local level," Leavitt said. "Indeed, the use of electronic health records, and of health information technology as a whole, has the ability to transform the way health care is delivered across our nation. We believe that EHRs can help physicians deliver better, more efficient care for their patients, in part by reducing medical errors. This project is designed to demonstrate these benefits and help increase the use of this technology in practices where adoption has been the slowest -- at the individual physician and small practice level."

"This HHS award to the Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum is a huge accomplishment for our state," said Jindal. "This federal funding will allow the Forum to provide financial incentives to Louisiana physicians who use electronic health records to improve the quality of care they provide their patients. This is another incredible step forward in our work to ensure access to quality health care for all Louisianans."

"The Quality Forum is excited to serve as a community partner in this endeavor. The mission of our organization is to lead collaborative efforts to improve the quality of care for the people of Louisiana," said Shannon Robshaw, Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum executive director. "Our success with this application is the direct result of many stakeholders statewide committing to this effort, and the resulting award will benefit thousands of patients."

The other communities selected to work with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on the Medicare EHR demonstration project range from county and state level to multi-state collaborations.

The administration has worked with the Louisiana Legislature to invest more than $18 million to assist physicians and rural hospitals with the implementation of electronic health records. These electronic health records allow for better privacy and security of health information, and fewer medical errors. This award by HHS will further the implementation of electronic health records in 100 physician practices in Louisiana.

Studies have shown that up to 100,000 Americans die every year from avoidable medical errors, said the Governor's Office in a release, and that nurses spend an hour filling out paperwork for every hour they provide care, in many hospital settings.

The project will be implemented in two phases. CMS will begin working with partners in the four phase I communities -- including Louisiana -- over the coming months to develop site-specific recruitment strategies, and recruitment of physician practices will start in the fall. For phase II sites, these activities will begin in 2009.

The sites were selected through a competitive process from a field of more than 30 applicants. Criteria for selection of communities included active community collaboration among stakeholders; likelihood that incentives like Medicare's would be implemented by private employers or health plans in the community; and adequate size to recruit a sufficient number of practices.

"While the number of sites selected was limited to 12, we are greatly encouraged by the substantial multi-stakeholder initiatives ongoing across the nation," Secretary Leavitt said. "It is my hope that those communities not selected and others that were not yet prepared to apply will continue working together to

improve health care - and consider creating their own incentive-based projects to advance the use of EHRs."

Findings from the demonstration will help determine the role of EHRs in delivering high-quality care and reducing errors. The demonstration will also assess the role of incentive payments in adoption and correct use of EHRs.

Over the five-year demonstration project, financial incentives will be provided to as many as 1,200 physician practices in the selected communities that use certified EHRs to improve quality as measured by their performance on specific clinical quality measures. In addition to the incentive payments, bonus payments may be awarded based on a standardized survey measuring the number of EHR functionalities a physician group has incorporated into its practice. Total payments under the demonstration for all five years may be up to $58,000 per physician or $290,000 per practice.

In addition to practices chosen to receive incentive payments, another set of practices will be chosen in each community to be observed but not receive payments. They will serve as "controls" for the demonstration in order to objectively measure the effect of the incentive payments and EHR use.

This initiative is also part of HHS' bold vision for health care reform built on the four cornerstones of value-driven health care. These include: adopting interoperable health information technology; measuring and publishing quality information to enable consumers to make better decisions about their providers and treatment options; measuring and publishing price information to give consumers information they need to make decisions on purchasing health care; and promoting incentives for high-quality, efficient delivery of care.