fah hospital policy blog

Perspectives on health policy affecting America’s hospitals and the patients we serve.

Category Archives: hearings

Extender Policies Critical For America’s Rural Hospitals

January 09, 2014 | FAH Hospital Policy Blog

Category: Hearings, Rural

Today the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Health Subcommittee is holding a hearing to address the flawed Medicare payment formula known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), and move closer to a more permanent solution. The hearing will also explore the impact of extenders policies for Medicare payments that are expiring, and how they will work within a new payment structure.

The FAH submitted a statement to the Committee in support of an SGR fix, identifying critical extender policies for rural hospitals that must be included in any payment system modifications. The continued efforts of Congress to find and implement a replacement to the SGR system is necessary to hospitals around the country who require dependable Medicare payments for their physicians and staff.

Rural hospitals, which traditionally serve older, low-income populations, are disproportionately affected by these issues; the unique patient demographic in rural regions often lend to a high volume of Medicare dependent patients with a lower volume of patients overall. This is why the extension of the Low-Volume Hospital Payment Adjustment (LVH) and Medicare Dependent Hospital Program (MDH) are essential for rural hospitals to continue to provide care.

Rural hospitals are often the sole provider of comprehensive medical care in their communities and also serve as the largest employer and economic engine in these areas. With more than 60 million Americans—representing 20% of the population—residing in rural regions, the protection of these local hospitals is essential. Patients in these areas depend on their community hospital for quality care and economic stability. If these hospitals are forced to close their doors, these residents will have to travel great distances to receive care, and communities will suffer significant health care job losses.

The FAH is pleased to submit a statement to the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee to advocate for the extension of the LVH and MDH programs. A permanent fix to the SGR payment flaw must include provisions to protect rural hospitals, which serve as a cornerstone of their communities.

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Senate HELP Hearing Focuses on Efforts to Reduce Healthcare-Associated Infections

September 24, 2013 | FAH Hospital Policy Blog

Category: Hearings, Research

Today the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) will hold a hearing on U.S. Efforts to Reduce Healthcare-Associated Infections. Doctor Jonathan Perlin, Chief Medical Officer of the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) is set to testify. HCA, a member organization of FAH, led a groundbreaking study earlier this year on the use of special disinfectant soaps and ointments to decrease the rate of bloodstream infections in hospital patients, namely MRSA.

Containing the spread of hospital-borne infections like MRSA is a major goal of FAH member hospitals and of all hospitals in America. In a previous blog post, FAH discussed the importance of the HCA study, whose results will change ICU treatments across the country. The study found that the universal use of these specialized treatments on ICU patients resulted in a 50% reduction of infection rates.

FAH would like to thank the Senate HELP committee for its focus on the critical issue of healthcare-associated infections which hospitals work to reduce every day. We hope that this hearing will lead to not only more focus on infection prevention, but also the adoption of innovative best practices like those demonstrated by HCA, in hospitals across the country.

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FAH Offers Comment on Senate Hearing - "Health Information Technology: Using it to Improve Care

July 24, 2013 | FAH Hospital Policy Blog

Category: Hearings, HIT

The Senate Finance Committee today held a second hearing on HIT - “Health Information Technology: Using it to Improve Care.” We applaud the Committee for its continued focus on the role of HIT as a tool to improve care for patients, and for providing an opportunity for stakeholders to offer feedback on the EHR Incentive Programs. The FAH submitted a statement for today’s hearing that addresses a number of issues critical to hospitals, including electronic quality measurement and reporting and the timeline for required adoption of the latest version of certified HIT. For more information see our statement and last week’s FAHPolicy blog post on HIT.

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Health Information Technology: A Critical Tool in Achieving Better Care for Patients

July 17, 2013 | FAH Hospital Policy Blog

Category: Hearings, HIT

It is clear that access to objective medical information about a patient is critical to physician and provider decision-making at the point of care. Health Information Technology (HIT), specifically electronic health records (EHRs), can be the conduit for making important patient health information available at the right point during that patient’s episode of care, whether in the Emergency Department or upon admission to a post-acute facility. HIT also can provide other opportunities to enhance care, including reductions in duplicative testing or better management of patients with chronic disease.

There is clear consensus on at least one point – having the right information in the right place at the right time results in higher quality, safer, more efficient care for patients.

In February 2009, Congress passed the “Health Information Technology for Clinical and Economic Health” (HITECH) Act to jumpstart demand sufficient for a robust market to drive vendor product development and innovation in HIT. To receive incentive payments under these programs, eligible providers (clinicians and acute-care hospitals) are required by statute to demonstrate “Meaningful Use of Certified HIT.” Meaningful Use was designed to focus not on whether every hospital room or doctor’s office had a computer plugged in, but instead, how that technology is being used to care for patients.

The use of technology in healthcare has brought about great advances in treatment and outcomes for patients. EHRs increase the ability to capture meaningful data about each patient encounter. Hospitals are committed to using certified EHRs to improve quality at the point of care and to improve our ability to measure not only quality but also track a patient’s progress overtime. Better structured documentation across the care continuum will result in a healthier population through a more coordinated care delivery system.

Certified EHRs allow hospitals to do a better job of documenting the patient’s story. And, as providers get better at telling those stories, they will have better data from which to understand trends and complications; this will enable providers to design improvement strategies based on sound data. For example, computerized provider order entry (“CPOE”), a critical component of “Meaningful Use,” is enabling providers to implement evidence-based order sets. This allows data capture on what clinicians are ordering and why they are ordering it. CPOE based on order sets built on the best evidence has the potential to lower costs and achieve better patient outcomes.

We are confident the investment in EHRs by providers, and by the federal government, will result in real benefits for patients and the healthcare system as a whole. Hospitals are building robust analytics capabilities to take the data collected in EHRs, understand what drives good outcomes and translate that data into improved care processes. EHRs have the potential to drive the discovery and adoption of evidence-based practice in a way unimaginable in the paper world we knew before.

We applaud the Senate Finance Committee for holding a hearing today - “Health Information Technology: A Building Block to Quality Health Care” – focused on the role of HIT as a critical tool in the creation of a higher performing health system. While there are numerous challenges to overcome in the years ahead, we believe the widespread adoption and use of HIT presents a tremendous opportunity to assist in the transformation of our health care system for clinicians, hospitals and, above all, for patients.

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