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E-Prescriptions Hit 1 Billion for First Time in 2013

By Bob Brewin // July 17, 2014

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Electronic prescriptions in the United States hit 1 billion for the first time in 2013 and eclipsed the number of written new and renewal prescriptions of 800,000 by 200,000, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health information Technology reported.

This spike marked a ten-fold increase from 2008 when only 7 percent of prescriptions were written electronically, Meghan Hufstader Gabriel and Matthew Swain wrote in an ONC issue brief published July 11.

They pulled data from an e-prescription network operated by Surescripts and used by the majority of community pharmacies in the United States. From 2008 through 2014, the number of community pharmacies able to receive electronic prescriptions increased from 76 to 96 percent, ONC reported.

ONC spokesman Peter Ashkenaz said the e-prescription count did not include those done electronically by the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments and Kaiser Permanente. These three largest health care systems in the country collectively serve 27 million patients or 8.5 percent of the U.S. population of 318 million and operate their own, closed e-prescribing systems.

ONC reported e-prescriptions recorded such a huge jump over the past five years because of financial incentive programs for doctors to adopt the technology, including ...

Federal Incentive Payments for EHRs to Doctors and Hospitals Edge $24 Billion

By Bob Brewin // June 12, 2014

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services paid out the equivalent of the gross national product of Costa Rica -- $23.7 billion -- to hospitals and medical professionals from 2011 through April 2014 to adopt electronic health records.

Despite this whopping federal investment in EHRs, the JASON advisory group, which usually works on national security matters, blasted the lack of interoperability of EHRs as a serious impediment to the exchange of health data between doctors, patients and hospitals in a report discussed Tuesday at the monthly Health Information Technology Policy meeting run by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

The 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health – or HITECH – provided funds to spur hospitals and doctors to use certified EHR technology, with initial payments in 2011. The underlying supposition is that EHRs have the potential to improve the quality of patient care and reduce health care costs. Clinicians -- including doctors, osteopaths, nurse practitioners, chiropractors and more -- are eligible to receive $44,000 over five years under the Medicare EHR incentive program, and up to $63,750 over six years under Medicaid, with a base payment of $2 million to hospitals.

Elisabeth Myers, policy and outreach ...

NIH Launches $20 Billion Governmentwide IT Procurement

By Nextgov Staff // May 12, 2014

A researcher monitors a DNA sequencing machine at the NIH in Bethesda, Md.
A researcher monitors a DNA sequencing machine at the NIH in Bethesda, Md. // National Human Genome Research Institute/AP

A new governmentwide contract worth up to $20 billion includes everything from fax machines to genetic sequencers to enterprise storage, according to solicitation documents.

The Chief Information Officer-Commodities and Solutions -- or CIO-CS -- contract aims to support information technology across the federal government, particularly focusing on agencies involved in health care and clinical and biological research, like the National Institutes of Health and its parent, the Health and Human Services Department.

In addition to health-specific products and services, “the contract also contains general IT commodities, partly because medical systems are increasingly integrated within a broader IT architecture, requiring a systems approach to their implementation and a sound infrastructure for their operation,” the solicitation said.

CIO-CS is a 10-year, indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity contract with a ceiling value of $20 billion.

NIH posted the request for proposals last week and advised that any resulting rewards would be contingent upon the agency obtaining executive agent designation for this contract from the Office of Management and Budget.

NIH is one of a handful of agencies authorized to run governmentwide acquisition contracts, or GWACs, which are master contracts for popular products and services that agencies can simply purchase for a set price rather than negotiate their ...

What Should Scare Us About Health IT

By Joseph Marks // March 21, 2014

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Electronic health records can give patients significantly more power over their own health care, but a paucity of safeguards in how those records are shared and managed can also make patients more vulnerable, according to Deborah Peel, a psychoanalyst and founder of the organization Patient Privacy Rights.

Revisions in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, have led to patient information being shared too broadly within hospitals and to damaging and embarrassing patient information leaking out to the public, Peel said. This perceived vulnerability can lead to patients not being honest with doctors about physical and psychological symptoms or not seeking treatment at all, she told Nextgov.

In other cases, insufficient protections used by hospitals and Health IT organizations can make patient information vulnerable to hackers, she said.

Nextgov will be speaking with Peel in a live event Wednesday morning at the Ronald Reagan Building as part of our Cybersecurity series. For more information or to register to attend the event click here

Inside the Tech Team Fixing the Obamacare Website

By Charles S. Clark // March 4, 2014

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In a feat of journalistic access, the cover story in the current Time magazine offers a glimpse inside the “hastily assembled group of tech wizards” who came to Washington to revive the near-collapsed HealthCare.gov. The behind-the-paywall feature titled “Code Red” is by longtime legal publisher Steven Brill, who has executed a series of Time probes of the politically volatile Affordable Care Act, providing rich insight into the intersection of Silicon Valley and D.C. cultures.

Among Brill’s findings:

  • On Oct. 17, President Obama was considering scrapping the balky Obamacare website to start over;
  • The team that got the site up and running in six weeks was a group  of “unknown—except in elite technology circles—coders and troubleshooters who dropped what they were doing in various enterprises across the country," some of them veterans of the Obama political campaign.
  • Brill tells the story of “an Obama administration obsessed with health care reform policy but above the nitty-gritty of implementing it;"
  • A coder named Gabriel Burt from Chicago, flew into Columbia, Md., on Oct. 18 to stay at the DoubleTree hotel for what he thought would be two or three days, but stayed until Dec. 6;
  • The key mistake ...