Despite plans to overhaul its Vista clinical system, the Veterans Health Administration will continue to offer copies of its multimillion-dollar software to private-sector users for a nominal fee under the Freedom of Information Act, says the Veterans Affairs Department's top physician informaticist. "We have the full support of the VHA leadership to continue to keep this in the public domain," says Robert Kolodner, M.D., acting chief health informatics officer at the VHA and deputy chief information officer for health at the VA. The Veterans Affairs Department has published a request for vendors to submit statements of their capability to provide the VA with what it called rehosting support and also has called for vendors to provide routine service and support for the Vista system. Both requests can be accessed at eps.gov. Kolodner said the move also would have no immediate impact on an effort initiated by the VA and the CMS to develop a version of Vista for the physician office practice. That software should be ready by summer 2005, according to the CMS.
Quality group wants pay-for-performance
At the request of the CMS, the National Quality Forum will call a workshop early next year in Washington to work on benchmarking baselines for the variety of pay-for-performance programs proliferating rapidly at the initiation of governments, employers groups, payers, consumer organizations and physician organizations. " 'Standards' may be a stronger term than is appropriate at this time," given the infancy of the pay-for-performance movement, says NQF President and Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Kizer, M.D., of the initiative. The Leapfrog Group recently announced there are 86 pay-for-performance programs listed on its Web site, leapfroggroup.org, Kizer says. The business healthcare coalition only began tracking the plans in late June. "What we don't want to do is stifle good ideas or cut off innovative approaches," Kizer says. Yet, "If the programs are going to be successful, there has to be feedback to the clinicians in a timely manner."
HHS calls for public input on health IT
David Brailer, M.D., HHS' national health information technology coordinator, wants advice from the public on how best to go about getting the nation's computerized healthcare information systems to communicate with each other. In his July report to President Bush outlining a national healthcare IT strategy, Brailer called for the development of a national health information network, or NHIN, to handle medical-records traffic between providers, patients and payers. Advice being sought includes: how to encourage private-sector competition in NHIN development; who will pay for building and operating the network; how privacy and security will be maintained; and what the legal and regulatory barriers to its creation are. The full text of Brailer's request for information is posted on the Federal Register Web site at frwebgate1.access.gpo.gov. The public comment period runs through Jan. 18, 2005.
Pa. system, Siemens sign 10-year contract
Holy Redeemer Health System, Huntingdon Valley, Pa., will hand over its information technology department to Siemens Medical Solutions in a 10-year deal valued at about $115 million. The deal calls for Holy Redeemer, which operates a 260-bed hospital in Jenkintown, Pa., and several other healthcare facilities, to upgrade its current Siemens financial and clinical IT systems to the latest Siemens products and buy from Siemens a radiology information system and picture-archiving and communications system, as well as diagnostic imaging equipment. Siemens, in turn, will hire 30 IT workers from Holy Redeemer and manage both the department and the implementation and servicing of the new systems. "They fixed our costs throughout the life of the contract, and that was huge," says Mark Jones, chief operating officer at Holy Redeemer. The deal allows the system to meet its IT goals while spreading out the costs over 10 years, Jones says.
Snomed to add osteopathic terms to coding
The American Osteopathic Association and clinical-terminology code developer Snomed International have reached an agreement to encode into the Snomed Clinical Terminology hundreds of procedures, diagnoses and anatomical aberrations used by physicians trained in osteopathic medicine. Generalized mapping will be performed from the Authorized Osteopathic Thesaurus, already in electronic form, to Snomed CT, says W. Thomas Crow, D.O. The agreement with Snomed also will make osteopathic terms and concepts more readily accessible to an international audience of physicians, since Snomed is available through the National Library of Medicine's Unified Medical Language System.
Health IT group welcomes observers
The Center for Information Technology Leadership, based in Wellesley, Mass., and an arm of Partners HealthCare System, the Boston-based consortium of Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital, is offering a technology practicum at both hospitals and at the CITL. Sessions run for a minimum of one week and could last as long as a month, says CITL Chairman Blackford Middleton, M.D. Attendees have access to clinical- and information-systems strategy meetings, informatics seminars, clinical-systems product governance meetings, CITL project meetings, select hospital leadership meetings, and quality-management, decision-support and patient-safety meetings. For more information, contact Ellen Rosenblatt, program manager, at [email protected]
Minn. plans launch quality-report site
Minnesota not-for-profit health plans have launched a consumer Web site that allows patients to review how 52 provider groups representing more than 700 clinics meet treatment guidelines. The guidelines pertain to chronic conditions, such as diabetes, and preventive screening for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases. A newly formed not-for-profit group, MN Community Measurement, operates the patient-oriented Web site, mnhealthcare.org. The site uses data pulled from health plans' bills and random audits of patients' charts.