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Health data standards could drive swift information exchange adoption

Using health data standards can jumpstart health information exchange and in the process, prepare providers for meaningful use. New York Medicaid's e-prescribing is proof.

For providers and other industry stakeholders trying to assemble health information exchange (HIE), the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ) wants to help.

The federal agency maintains a repository of information about Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, and about how information technology might benefit providers and patients. A recent report highlights the New York Medicaid e-prescribing program, which, because it relies on existing health data standards, will give participants a leg up on meeting meaningful use requirements.

Providers must demonstrate that they can participate in information exchange to be eligible for incentives under the federal meaningful use program, developed through the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health, or HITECH Act. But there must be information exchanges established that can accept data from providers. AHRQ's reports spotlight the best practices among the states that are developing their exchanges now.

Electronic transactions should be foremost on providers' minds, according to compliance experts speaking on issues related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act during the Fourth HIPAA Summit West.

The industry will be undergoing two significant electronic updates -- the HIPAA 5010 conversion followed by the switch to International Statistical Classification of Diseases (ICD)-10 administrative codes -- that will affect HIE, stakeholders said.

Eligible professionals who participate in the New York Medicaid e-prescribing incentive program will have a jumpstart on meeting the e-prescribing component of meaningful use.
Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality

"This is a lot more complicated and intricate than people give it credit for," Michael Ubl, executive director of the Minnesota HIE and chair of the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI) board, said during the summit.

WEDI -- which provides guidance and expertise for developing effective health IT -- estimates that providers and insurers should be testing their systems for the 5010 conversion already. Providers in general haven't begun implementation yet, however, and they're in even less of a position to test any exchange according to the new health data standards. More communication and awareness are needed, Ubl said.

"All of this has to happen from an active standpoint in your community," Ubl said. "This is not a competitive advantage. This is something we all have to do."

Data standards harmonization played a role in the implementation of New York's e-prescribing program as well, according to the AHRQ report. The state requires Medicaid providers to use the same standards as the Medicare Part D program for prescriptions uses. The Medicare Part D data standards also are required in the final standards rule that accompanies meaningful use.

"Eligible professionals who participate in the New York Medicaid e-prescribing incentive program will have a jumpstart on meeting the e-prescribing component of meaningful use," AHRQ stated in its report.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Jean DerGurahian, News Writer.

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