Archive for December 24, 2012

Join the Government Technology HIX TweetChat on Jan. 10

On Thursday Jan. 10, 2013, at 1:00 PM ET, follow #GTonHIX to participate in our TweetChat: Innovation in Focus – States & Health Insurance Exchanges.

Government Technology Staff Writer Sarah Rich (@SarahRichforGT) will host this TweetChat with industry experts about the role Health Insurance Exchanges (HIXs) will play in helping states enhance their delivery of services to citizens.  Chat participants will include: 

John Sweeney (@JJS_HIX), IBM’s Senior Product Manager for the Curam solution 

Dan Schuyler (@LeavittPartners), Director for Leavitt Partners’ HIX practice 

The chat will address the following questions. 

What are the benefits for both states and their citizens in building these exchanges?Are there any lessons learned from states that have implemented or are in the process of implementing an exchange? What are the technical challenges the states face in implementing HIXs? How different will the HIXs be across states? How can states maximize the cost benefits of implementing these HIXs? What are some of the innovative approaches to these exchanges?

We hope to see you there!

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GovTech Innovators: Jon Rosenberg, Chief of California’s Healthcare Infections Map

Our latest GovTech Innovator is Jonathan Rosenberg, chief of the Healthcare Associated Infections Program at the California Department of Public Health. 

His program, established in 2009, tracks the surgical infection rates in the state’s hospitals and reports the data publicly. This means that Californians can check the program’s website if they’re curious about the infection rates associated with local hospitals.

But medical information can be complicated, and sometimes people have trouble deciphering large blocks of texts and detailed tables, so Rosenberg and his colleagues are trying an extra method to simplify the process. 

They’ve created an interactive map (snapshot shown above) that charts California hospitals and assigns them symbols based on how their infection rates compare with state and national averages. They hope this will help people make better healthcare choices.

Rosenberg spoke to us about the map and his program’s role is assisting Californians.

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Broadband Health Care Fund Launched by FCC

The FCC has announced the creation of a new fund to upgrade health care broadband services — that will ultimately be used to reform and modernize its universal service program for health care.

According to the FCC, this fund — the Healthcare Connect Fund — is intended to reform existing health-care service programs, improve broadband access and lower patient costs. It will help expand rural health-care providers’ access to high-bandwidth connections necessary for telemedicine by doing a few things: encouraging collaboration between smaller health-care providers and urban medical centers, and supporting the purchases of broadband services and upgrades to higher speed services. 

The FCC’s existing Rural Health Care program was established by the 1996 Telecommunications Act, and was not effectively structured to expand the reach of broadband health-care networks, according to the FCC.

So in 2006, the FCC launched its Rural Health Care Pilot Program to learn how to more effectively support these networks, and it now funds approximately 50 active pilots across the nation. In a recent report, the FCC highlighted lessons learned from these pilots, including a group of health-care providers in the Midwest that saved $1.2 million in patient electronic intensive care unit services.  

And a new pilot program will also be established to assess expanding broadband health-care networks to skilled nursing facilities.

Participants will have to contribute 35 percent of the costs, but will be afforded access to lower rates through group buying. A maximum of $50 million will be available over three years to pilot program applicants.

With the efficiencies that providers will gain through this fund, the overall cost of broadband healthcare networks could be cut in half, the FCC said in a press release. Past pilot programs revealed savings of $18 million in one South Carolina Medicaid program. Another pilot revealed savings of $1.2 million by providers in the Midwest that used electronic services in their intensive care units.

Photo courtesy of UC Davis Health System

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FCC Health Care Initiatives Gain Momentum

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is getting its health care initiatives organized. Through the creation of a new website and a recruitment for a new position, Director of Health Care Initiatives, the FCC will attempt to meet recommendations made by a mobile Health Task Force.

According to an official FCC blog post, the Director of Healthcare Initiatives will promote communications technologies that improve health care programs, facilitate medical facilities’ access to wireless spectrum, and ensure open connectivity for health care facilities. The director will also be responsible for launching a pilot program to explore the possibility of expanding health care networks to skilled nursing facilities. The announcement comes days after the announcement of a new fund dedicated to overhauling broadband services for health care.

The new FCC official will work closely with the mobile Health Task Force, and federal agencies including Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

The FCC’s new website will provide a central hub for all of the agency’s health care related projects. “By recruiting a Director of Health Care Initiatives and launching the FCC Health website, we hope to accomplish even more, with greater coordination within the agency, more community engagement, and more efficient collaboration with our external partners,” the FCC announcement reads.

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Washington State Joins HIX Club

Washington state has been granted conditional approval to move forward with plans to roll out its health insurance exchange (HIX) program, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal. Washington, the sixth state to reach this milestone, will call its online health-care marketplace Washington Healthplanfinder. The website is scheduled to go online Oct. 1, 2013.

“This conditional approval is a significant validation of the work that we’ve done to get our state’s health insurance exchange up and running,” Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said in a statement. “We are clearly ahead of the curve and well positioned to remain a national leader on health-care reform. Through our exchange, we will offer coverage to more than 200,000 uninsured Washingtonians and boost competition in the marketplace.”

Washington officials submitted their plans for establishing the HIX more than one month before the deadline. Oregon, Massachusetts, Maryland, Colorado and Connecticut have also received preliminary approval for their exchanges. By contrast, many states have either chosen to default to a federally run exchange or have not yet announced any plan for an exchange. According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Utah and Virginia have not announced an official course of action for an exchange.

By July 2013, Washington state will announce which Qualified Health Plans will be available to the public and by September 2013, a call center and toll-free phone number should be available for residents. Enrollees will receive coverage effective Jan. 1, 2014.

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