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HHS Secretary Polanowicz with Senate President Therese Murray at the EU-US Business Marketplace and Conference.

HHS Secretary Polanowicz with Senate President Therese Murray at the EU-US Business Marketplace and Conference.

Remarks by Secretary Polanowicz: Health IT eHealth Collaboration for Better Patient Care

Good morning. Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today, and to join my esteemed panelists. I would especially like to thank Senate President Therese Murray for her kind invitation. She is an amazing leader and it is an honor to join you to discuss this exciting and important health-care issue.

Massachusetts is the model for our national health care reform, and today, thanks to the state health reforms that began in 2006, we have more opportunities than ever to improve the health of our residents, enhance the quality of care they receive and make sure that the cost for that care is affordable.

I would like to briefly highlight some of our health information technology initiatives in Massachusetts, but before I talk about WHAT we are doing, I want to talk about WHY. Why make these investments in health care innovation and infrastructure?  Why does it matter?

It matters because we believe that health care is a public good. Because quality, affordable health care, a most basic need, means shaping a brighter future with more opportunities for all of our residents. But to sustain our health care system over time, we must not only provide coverage, we must also ensure that that coverage is affordable. At the reception last night, I talked to a number of you are going to help make address that issue through technology.

I think we all know, otherwise, there wouldn’t be much need for this conference… that Health Information Technology, or HIT, plays a key role in promoting both coverage and affordability.

I’d like to briefly highlight three key initiatives in Massachusetts: our Health Insurance Exchange, or HIX; our promotion of electronic health records, and establishment of a Health Information Exchange, or HIE. Together, these initiatives show how HIT can help coordinate care, improve patient safety, promote efficient care, and ensure access to coverage.

First, on October 1, building off the success of our nation’s first Exchange, the Massachusetts Health Connector, Massachusetts launched its updated Health Insurance Exchange that is compliant with the Affordable Care Act. The Health Insurance Exchange and Integrated Eligibility System, or HIX-IES, was developed to ensure that our residents could quickly and easily determine whether they are eligible for subsidies to help them afford health care coverage, and to readily compare different health care plans. In the first two and half weeks, more than 170,000 people had visited the website, creating nearly 17,000 accounts and demonstrating the strong interest in our Exchange.

In developing the improved Connector, we took the opportunity to put in place infrastructure to build out the portal system to be used by all agencies that provide services supports – from health care, housing assistance and food benefits, to disability services and veteran’s benefits. We envision a single-door, for which individuals seeking support can apply for all eligible services – an Amazon of assistance. Massachusetts took the opportunity to create not only an ACA compliant insurance exchange, but to reach further and build a platform that will serve our entire Commonwealth.

Second, the Commonwealth is committed to promoting the use of electronic health record technology. Our state’s health care reform law includes both “carrots” and “sticks” to encourage providers to adopt EHR. The carrots come from direct support from the Commonwealth, a multitude of grant programs and the strong work and partnership with the state’s Mass Technology Collaborative. The sticks include requiring that every physician by 2015 will have to show meaningful use proficiency as a condition for licensing and by December 1st, hospitals are required to have at least 50% of inpatient and Emergency Department medication orders sent electronically via CPOE. I am proud of the progress that Massachusetts providers have made in adopting EHR. Almost 100% of Community Health Centers have adopted EHR technology. Nearly nine out of ten acute care hospitals in Massachusetts have a certified EHR system. And three out of five Massachusetts office-based providers have adopted a certified EHR system, ranking us fourth in the U.S.

Third, I am proud that the Commonwealth launched the first in the nation state-wide Health Information Exchange funded by CMS, called the Mass HIway. Just over one year ago, Governor Patrick sent the first ever electronic health record transmission over the Mass HIway, from right here in Boston to Springfield, Massachusetts. Since it was his health information, we were happy that it made it there securely and didn’t end up streaming it across the Jumbotron at Fenway Park…

This HIway provides a secure and standardized technical mechanism for the exchange of clinical information. It creates a universal, state-wide network by allowing established clinical data networks to connect as well as individual practitioners. It is overseen by an HIT planning council that includes state representatives, providers, and payers who collaborate on the technology, financial, legal and privacy issues, and consult with consumer and provider advisory groups who work to encourage usage.

To date, over 1.4 million such transactions have ridden on our HIway – more than the 1.3 million people who travel on the T daily and the number is increasing every day.

Moving to the next phase, we are enhancing the HIWay to support the ability to query and retrieve health care records for patients across any provider in the state, so that rather than sending reports each time, they will be securely available exactly when and where they are needed.

I am proud of what the team, led by Manu Tandon, our CIO, has accomplished but I know that there is much more to be done. As a former hospital president, I know first-hand the importance of investing in opportunities that foster innovation in health and medicine. Better access to great care across our Commonwealth, improves the health outcomes for everyone, especially our most vulnerable populations.

The future of medicine, the future of health care, and the future of our Commonwealth, will be dictated by continued investments in innovation and cutting edge medical practices; like those we are discussing today.

Today, I can say with the energy and ideas here in this room, I look forward to what that future can bring. And I hope that starting tonight at 8:07 p.m., our Boston Red Sox will get off on the right foot and bring home another World Series trophy – Go Sox!

Thank you.

Written By:


Deputy Communications Director, Office of Health and Human Services

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