Healthcare Business Week in Review: Meaningful Use, Hospital Pricing, Telehealth, Health Insurance Marketplaces

Friday, December 20th, 2013
This post was written by Cheryl Miller

CMS has proposed delaying the start of Stage 3 of the meaningful use program for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, while the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has proposed adjustments to its certification process, according to a December 6th post on the HHS blog site Health IT Buzz.

Under CMS’ revised meaningful use timeline, the start of Stage 2 has not been changed, but it has been extended through 2016; and the start of Stage 3 has been postponed, and will begin in 2017 for healthcare providers who have completed at least two years in Stage 2 of the program.

Whether this delay sways hospital executives looking at implementing an accountable care organization (ACO) remains to be seen. EHR utilization is among the reasons nearly half of the hospital executives recently surveyed have no plans to implement the care model in the near future, according to a new survey from Purdue Healthcare Advisors. The respondents, who were categorized according to their progress with meaningful use implementation, voiced concern about the technology, particularly its interoperability with other providers, and staff readiness and training. .

Interoperability of sorts is at the core of a qualitative study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC), which focused on the effects of California’s reference pricing initiative to guide consumers to hospitals that provide routine hip and knee replacements below a certain price threshold. Researchers found that the cost of these surgeries ranged from as little as $15,000 to as much as $110,000.

While the initiative was effective in setting a threshold for hospital facility payments for both procedures and designating certain hospitals that met certain quality standards, whether it contributed to overall healthcare savings was debated in the study.

But sometimes the high cost is well worth it, as in the area of telehealth and telemedicine services, according to our latest market research data.

Despite the significant financial costs of remote monitoring technologies, adopters report impressive gains in medication adherence and care of remote and rural patients, as well as a decrease in health complications. Active users of telehealth and telemedicine also experience fewer hospitalizations, hospital readmissions, ER visits and bed days.

And speaking of technology, nearly 365,000 Americans selected plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace (HIM) in October and November, and enrollment in November was more than four times greater than October’s reported federal enrollment number, according to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The numbers reflect the technical improvements to HealthCare.gov, which has been unreliable since its launch in October. The open enrollment period is six months long and continues to March 31, 2014.

And lastly, don’t forget to take our current e-survey, Reducing Hospital Readmissions in 2013. Describe how your organization is working to reduce hospital readmissions by taking HIN’s fourth comprehensive Reducing Hospital Readmissions Benchmark Survey. Respond by January 3, 2014 and receive an e-summary of the results once they are compiled.

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