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Community Health Centers Receive Awards for Improving Care

Early this month the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced awards totaling $36.3 million will go to 1,113 community health centers across the country to recognize and promote their ongoing efforts to manage chronic disease, prevent illness, and use electronic health records (EHRs) to report performance data. Recipients were chosen in one of four categories: being in the top 30 percent of health centers on overall clinical outcomes; exceeding national clinical benchmarks; achieving 10 percent improvement on measures of clinical quality between 2012 and 2013; or using EHRs to report data on clinical quality for all of their patients.

ONC Challenge for Digital Health Pilots

In late October, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) launched the Market R&D Pilot Challenge to match technology startups with health care organizations willing to pilot their digital health tools. Seeking to reduce “the high barriers to entry in the health IT space,” the ONC will provide $50,000 awards for up to six pilots in the following areas: clinical environments, public health/community environments, consumer health, and research/data.

GAO Finds Flaws in CMS “Compare” Websites

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) “compare” websites—Hospital Compare, Nursing Home Compare, Dialysis Facility Compare, Home Health Compare, and Physician Compare—are not fulfilling their intended purpose of enabling consumers to make meaningful comparisons of the quality and costs of care across settings, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued in late November. To make the sites more useful, GAO recommends: enabling Medicare beneficiaries to estimate their out-of-pocket costs for common, planned treatments; organizing information on cost and quality to facilitate identification of high-performing providers; allowing consumers to customize information; and developing measures to asses how well the transparency tools actually address consumers’ needs.

IOM: Include Social, Behavioral Data in Electronic Records

Including standardized data on people’s behavioral health and social circumstances—e.g., their income and educational levels, social connections, stress levels, and physical activity—into electronic health records (EHRs) would give crucial information to providers about factors that influence health and inform effective treatment plans, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published last month. The report identifies 12 measures that might be incorporated into EHRs to achieve these goals.

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