TMA Advocates for HIE Funds

TMA Letter Presented by David Fleeger, MD

Senate Committee on State Affairs
Senate Bill 1367
March 25, 2013

Mr. Chairman and Members:

I offer the following testimony on behalf of the more than 47,000 physician and medical student members of the Texas Medical Association, a private, voluntary, nonprofit association. TMA was founded in 1853 to serve the people of Texas in matters of medical care, prevention and cure of disease, and improvement of public health. Today, our maxim continues in the same direction: “Physicians Caring for Texans.”

Technology holds great promise in assisting physicians in our efforts to achieve these goals. According to a national survey, the vast majority of clinicians believe that Health Information Exchange (HIE) implementation will positively impact both the quality and coordination of care. A 2009 survey by eHealth Initiative polled 40 operational HIEs that reported cost savings to physicians and providers by reducing (1) time handling lab and radiology results, (2) time for clerical administration and filing, (3) money spent on redundant tests, (4) costs for chronically-ill patients, and (5) costs associated with medication errors. In an environment where many physicians’ practices are seeing overall declines in their revenue streams, achieving savings through streamlining processes and reducing duplication and expenses is critical.

The Texas Health Services Authority (THSA) was created by the Legislature in 2007 as a public-private partnership to support the improvement of the Texas health care system by promoting and coordinating HIE and health information technology (HIT) throughout the state. The goal is to ensure that the right information is available to the right health care providers at the right times. In the same way we collectively build roads and bridges in the state, THSA is the vehicle to build electronic health information infrastructure.

Federal grant funding currently used by the THSA to support statewide HIE activities is scheduled to end as early as September 2013. With the expiration of these funds, alternatives need to be identified to ensure that the statewide HIE activities:

  • Allow physicians to better coordinate care, manage costs, and assess quality of care;
  • Allow physicians to securely access patient information from many different participating facilities quickly and securely;
  • Allow physicians to accurately reconcile medications, thus reducing adverse reactions;
  • Increase patient quality of care, which also generates retained earnings from risk management contracts; and
  • Better enable physicians to comply with meaningful use rules, thereby ensuring physicians receive available federal funding.

The Texas Health Insurance Pool (THIP) provides a potential funding source for THSA to make these ideals a reality. By using a portion of the unused $10.7 million in prompt pay penalties that are in the pool, the state can continue to see the evolution of technology benefitting medical practices and local health care delivery systems across the state.

TMA encourages you to consider supporting some one-time bridge gap funding through these industry-related funds to continue the building of an electronic infrastructure that will benefit patients, payers, and our state’s health care providers. THSA and HIE can improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of the Texas health care sector.

Sincerely,

David Fleeger, MD
Texas Medical Association

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