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Hospital achieves electronic health record goal

5/7/2012

Almost two and one half years of research and planning has helped Crawford County Memorial Hospital achieve a major information technology goal resulting in an official reward by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

CCMH was recently notified it has attested to Stage 1 of Meaningful Use under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinic Health (HITECH) Act developed by HHS. This Act was formulated as a way to establish programs to improve health care quality, safety and efficiency through the promotion of health information technology. A major foundation of the HITECH Act included the development of a financial incentive program to promote implementation of electronic health records and the exchange of private and secure electronic health information amongst medical providers.

"This federal notification validates the hard work our staff put in to reach this benchmark so quickly," said Nancy Carlson, Chief Financial Officer at Crawford County Memorial Hospital. "All of our departments worked together as a team to allow our facility to achieve the monumental task of converting from a decades-old paper medical record system to almost entirely electronic."

CCMH learned it will receive more than one million dollars in incentive payments from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in the next year. The payments represent reimbursements toward the facility's past costs incurred to build and implement its Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system.

Specifically, the Medicaid reimbursements include $262,200 for the next two years and $131,000 the following year. The Medicare reimbursements will be significantly higher as the hospital financed a new information technology infrastructure to allow it to improve efficiencies associated with the construction of the new replacement hospital in 2011. Taking those costs into consideration, CCMH was notified its first Medicare reimbursement will total $968,212.

"One of the nice aspects of the new hospital construction was that we were able to place adequate bandwith throughout the facility to build our infrastructure to not only meet today's technology needs, but tomorrow's as well," said Angie Andersen, Information Technology Manager at Crawford County Memorial Hospital.

Andersen noted that while much of this infrastructure development is "virtual" and not publicly seen, patients and visitors have probably noticed computers present in each patient room at the hospital. This allows nurses and providers to access and update patient charts in real time.

CCMH reached "Stage 1" of meaningful use in the first year that the incentive program was made available for hospitals and other eligible medical providers. The federal government has provided these incentives to help all providers reach this stage by 2015 in order to avoid seeing reductions in Medicare reimbursements.

Staff are now focusing on finishing the electronic conversion for the CCMH Medical Clinic. According to Carlson and Andersen, the CCMH Medical Clinic is one year away from being integrated into the hospital's overall EMR system.

"At that point, each department inside our building will be virtually paperless and integrated into the EMR system," said Carlson.