Vermont patients benefit from federal EHR incentive program


first_imgVITL Middlebury, Vt. (August 12) – Vermont patients are beginning to see results from a $27 billion federal program that offers incentives for physician practices and hospitals to use electronic health records systems, according to US Senator Patrick Leahy. Those benefits include Vermonters receiving more reminders about important preventive care. Senator Leahy spoke during a visit to Middlebury Family Health Friday, the first Vermont physician practice to meet all of the federal program’s criteria for improving patient care using its electronic health records system.”I am delighted that this targeted federal investment has enabled Middlebury Family Health to become the first Vermont practice to receive incentive payments from Medicare for using an electronic health record system,” Leahy said. “Better records mean better patient care and patient safety for Vermonters.  With breakthroughs like this, we are beginning to shift to a higher gear in health reform. The federal partnership with Vermont Information Technology Leaders and local physician practices has the potential to benefit every Vermonter.   Vermont has been in the front ranks of health care reform, and Middlebury Family Health’s adoption of an electronic health record system is an excellent example of this leadership.” As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Congress appropriated $27 billion to fund the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Programs. To participate in either of the programs, eligible health care professionals must use federally-certified EHR technology, and meet a number of criteria for becoming “meaningful users” of EHRs and improving patient care. Once documenting that they have achieved meaningful use, eligible professionals receive up to a total of $44,000 in incentive payments from Medicare over the five years they choose to participate in the program or up to $63,750 in incentive payments from Medicaid over the six years they choose to participate in the program.  Hospitals may also participate in the programs, receiving incentives based on a number of factors, beginning with a $2 million base payment.All four physicians at Middlebury Family Health recently achieved meaningful use of their EHR, and each has received the maximum first year incentive payment of $18,000 from Medicare, making them the first eligible professionals in Vermont to do so. The physician practice will use the federal funds to pay for the EHR technology and to continue to make investments in improving patient care.  “Our electronic health records system has streamlined communication in the office between physicians, nurses, and other staff,” said Eileen Doherty Fuller, MD, a partner at Middlebury Family Health. “We’ve also greatly enhanced communications with our patients. Using the EHR, we can better track which patients are overdue for physicals, mammograms, and checkups for high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.” When the electronic health records system flags an overdue preventive service, Middlebury Family Health contacts the patient to schedule an appointment. “Often patients don’t realize it is time for them to come in, so we are able to be more proactive about reminders,” Dr. Fuller said.Other general criteria for meaningful use that directly affect patient care include: eprescribing and the ability to immediately check drug-to-drug and drug allergy interactions; maintaining up-to-date patient medical problem lists and medication lists; and providing patients with a clinical summary of their visit, including any changes to medications, instructions and other relevant information.  One feature of Middlebury Family Health’s electronic health record system that has been particularly beneficial is its ability to track whether ordered lab tests were actually completed, Dr. Fuller said. If a patient fails to show up for a scheduled test, the EHR will alert physicians who can follow up with the patient.Middlebury Family Health has also met the standards for being a patient centered medical home, and attained the highest level status in that National Committee for Quality Assurance program, Dr. Fuller noted. As a result, Middlebury Family Health will receive the highest level of payment for participating in the Vermont Blueprint for Health program. “Without the EHR, we could have never done that,” she said.”Middlebury Family Health worked with VITL and the state of Vermont using collaborative workgroups for meaningful use and the medical home. We included four staff members and two doctors to learn and implement this system. Joining me on this team were Dr. Linn Larson, Medent Specialist Michelle Clark, and Office Manager Stacy Ladd. They kept the staff involved and excited throughout the process. In addition, Christine Fuller and Connie Billings were an important resource to the team. The efforts of all our employees and this core team were critical to our success,” Dr. Fuller said. The other two physicians in the practice areJean Andersson-Swayze, MD, and Dayle Klitzner, MD. Assistance from VITLPhysician practices and hospitals around the country receive assistance in implementing EHR technology and achieving meaningful use from 62 non-profit regional extension centers funded by the federal government. Vermont Information Technology Leaders, Inc. (VITL), an independent non-profit organization based in Montpelier, is the only such center serving Vermont.VITL’s staff worked with Middlebury Family Health to implement its EHR system and connect it to the Vermont Health Information Exchange, a secure statewide health data network operated by VITL. Middlebury Family Health’s four physicians received information and guidance from VITL on achieving meaningful use and qualifying for federal incentive payments.”VITL congratulates Middlebury Family Health for being the first Vermont practice to achieve meaningful use. While you are in the vanguard, there are many other practices following in your footsteps,” said David Cochran, MD, VITL’s president and CEO. “We’re working with more than 750 of the state’s 1,000 primary care providers and expect that Vermont will have one of the highest percentages of health care providers in the country achieving meaningful use. That’s great news for Vermont patients and the state’s health care reform efforts,” he said.The transition to advanced electronic health records systems is also happening in the state’s 14 hospitals, Dr. Cochran noted. Copley Hospital in Morrisville announced on June 29 that it was the first hospital in Vermont to achieve meaningful use. VITL is working with Copley and the rest of Vermont’s hospitals on meaningful use and health information exchange.VITL assisted Porter Medical Center with implementation of the hospital’s new EHR system, which went live on August 1, as well as the installation of a lab system interface to the Vermont Health Information Exchange so that Middlebury Family Health and other physician practices in the hospital’s service area can receive lab results immediately in electronic format.”Through the efforts of Porter Medical Center and area physician practices, including Middlebury Family Health, Addison County is well on the way to becoming one of the most connected communities in Vermont for medical records,” Dr. Cochran said. “Patients in the Middlebury area will experience better health care because of the increased use of health information technology, everything from smoother check-in at the front desk to greater information sharing among authorized providers, which will result in fewer duplicated tests and quicker diagnoses of medical problems.” last_img read more

Implementation of new insurance laws has implications – GTM Chairman


first_imgThe GTM employees who were awarded for their outstanding contributions and achievements…as company records $1.93B profit in 2018The recent implementation of the Insurance Act 2016 is causing major setbacks for local insurance companies, according to the Guyana and Trinidad Mutual Life Insurance Company Limited (GTM).The Insurance Act of 2016 and its supporting Regulations of 2018 took effect mid-last year.At the company’s Annual General Meeting on Wednesday, Chairman Ram L Singh spoke of the factors that have influenced the performance and operation of the company.“The myriad of new requirements have had and will continue to have significant and profound implications for your company financially and operationally well into the future,” he told stakeholders at the Georgetown Club.The Chairman pointed to Note No. 48 of the Insurance Act, which sets a limit on investments for statutory fund requirements. “Though the Insurance Act gives an implementation of five years from the date of the Act came into force, the implication for all companies carrying on long-term business in nonetheless far-reaching,” he noted.Singh explained that a key investment requirement for any insurance company, especially life insurance companies, was viable, secure long-term investments. GTM currently has substantial investments in shares of large entities such as Banks DIH Limited; Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL); Republic Bank Guyana Limited and Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI).The Chairman noted that some of the equity in these companies was pledged towards the statutory funds.“The new regulations seek to limit the equity pledged to a paltry 20 per cent of the statutory fund. If your company is to comply, it will need to dispose of millions of shares in companies that are considered in the investment world as ‘blue chip’ or reliable high- quality investments. With the unavailability of alternative sources of viable secure long-term investments, liquidating these shares means your company would now have billions of dollars in deposits earning far lower rates of return,” he told shareholders.Singh went on to outline that beyond the issue of excess liquidity and unnecessary exposure to low-yielding returns, the sudden disposal of large amount of shares in a company would inevitably have negative repercussions for the company’s share price and value. Moreover, three or four insurance companies disposing of their shares in these large companies would, according to the Chairman, not only be devastating but catastrophic for those companies.In fact, he disclosed that the 24 per cent appreciation in value of GTM from $10.31 billion to $12.78 billion at the end of December 2018 was a direct result of increased share prices from these investments. This, he added, contributed to the company’s “favourable performance” as reflected in its accounts.Financial positionTurning his attention to the company’s financial position, Singh revealed that GTM’s total income for 2018 was pegged at $1.93 billion, which is $124 million more than the previous year. At the end of December 2018, the company’s asset base increased by $2.47 billion. This 23.97 per cent growth over 2017’s figure is as a result of the increase in value of non-current assets and improved share values of the local companies in which GTM invested.Further, the company’s insurance premiums written, unlike 2017, recorded a growth of $133.76 million or 7.74 per cent in 2018. After the payment of reinsurance, GTM’s net premium growth was $121.67 million over 2017.Meanwhile, of the company’s 1.86 billion insurance premiums written last year, Guyana continues to be the top contributor with $899 million or 48 per cent, followed by St Lucia with $589 million or 32 per cent and Grenada with $281 million or 15 per cent.According to the Chairman, GTM settled some $568 million in insurance claims during 2018 compared to $461 million paid out in 2017.“The increase is a direct result of claims association with routine health, car, surgeries and treatment of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, renal failure and heart-related illness. As opposed to being a cause for alarm at this stage, an increase in the use of health-care services is seen as the growing awareness of the importance of preventative health care which provides an opportunity to expand your company’s health insurance portfolio,” he told the shareholders.On the other hand, Singh explained that concerted efforts were made to aggressively manage expenditures and as such, a decline in management expenses was recorded. Notwithstanding this, however, he noted that the new Insurance Act and its attendant Regulations required the introduction of additional positions at senior levels.“Steep increases in insurance levies to fund operation of the insurance regulator’s office and charges that are not imposed by other regulators in other territories in which your company operates, run counter to the regulator’s call for cost efficiency. Nonetheless, the Board of Directors working in collaboration with management have taken steps to comply and have already established a fully functional Compliance Department and identified persons for the positions of Risk Officer and Client Ombudsman,” he added.As customary at its Annual General Meetings, GTM also recognised its staff for their contributions and achievements over the past year.GTM Chairman Ram L Singhlast_img read more