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$840 million HHS initiative targets better patient care

U.S. healthcare providers tempted to treat as many patients in as little time as possible to benefit their bottom lines have a new reason to reconsider that approach. The Department of Health and Human Services announced an $840 million initiative that will fund organizations that work directly with providers to drive better patient care and more coordinated healthcare systems.

The program, dubbed the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative, aims to invest in approximately 150,000 clinicians over the next four years. Providing physicians with more complete patient information — such as the medications they take — and facilitating communication between patients and their caretakers are two of the ways the initiative aims to improve care quality, while keeping costs down.

“The administration is partnering with clinicians to find better ways to deliver care, pay providers and distribute information to improve the quality of care we receive,” said Sylvia Burwell, HHS secretary, in an HHS release.

Two network systems, Practice Transformation Networks and Support and Alignment Networks, will be awarded funding by CMS under the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative. Practice Transformation Networks are peer-based networks designed to help educate clinicians to improve their practices. Support and Alignment Networks will offer a system of workforce development by relying on regional and national professional associations and public-private business partnerships that are already focused on improving care methods. Applications to receive funding for participation in either of these networks must be received by Jan. 6, 2015.

Healthcare systems, group practices and medical provider associations are among the groups that can qualify to receive funds from the initiative. The HHS release specifies daily EHR use as one method applicants could use to improve and track the quality and efficiency of their patient encounters. The likelihood of providers using EHRs to track patient care has increased, because the number of EHRs in use has risen. According to a progress report the ONC submitted to Congress, 78% of office-based physicians used an EHR in 2013, an increase of 60% since 2001.

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