National Health IT Week

Aneesh Chopra, Virginia’s Secretary of TechnologyThis is National Health IT Week, an annual forum where public and private sector organizations unite to promote the common goal of interoperable health IT adoption. National Health IT Week brings together key healthcare constituents — information technology firms, healthcare providers, payers, pharmaceutical/biotech companies, government agencies, industry/professional associations, and consumer protection groups — in a unifying call for action.

In the following Q&A, Aneesh Chopra, Virginia’s Secretary of Technology, shares the latest on the importance of Health IT and why it’s so essential to ensuring Virginia’s future. In 2007, the Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society awarded Secretary Chopra its 2007 State Leadership Advocacy Award for Virginia’s innovative approach to the topic.

You are serving as the Honorary National Co-Chairman for National Health IT Week. What does that entail?

Aneesh Chopra: This week, a broad coalition of public, private and non-profit leaders gathered in Washington, DC to bring focus to an important lever in our fight to improve our nation’s healthcare system – the transformative power of IT. I was humbled to serve as honorary co-chair and am pleased to report three advances in Governor Kaine’s Health IT strategy.

What are they?

Aneesh Chopra: First, we published the nine responses to our innovative public-private partnership to lower state employee healthcare costs, improve quality and elevate satisfaction through IT and related services (http://www.dhrm.virginia.gov/rfps/ppea/ppeatoc.html). Your readers might take great interest in how the private sector can lower employee healthcare costs. We hope to award a contract and get started later this year.

Second, we released an RFI to promote administrative cost savings through our recently formed Virginia Healthcare Exchange Network comprised of the Commonwealth’s leading health systems and insurance plans. Our first initiative will be a low-cost multi-payer portal to streamline insurance eligibility screening, a major cause of costly errors.

Third, and perhaps most exciting, Health Secretary Michael Leavitt announced today (Thursday) Virginia’s selection as one of 12 communities to implement a demonstration project to subsidize electronic medical records purchases by small physician practices which will result in an estimated $10+M in provider incentives over the next five years.

How important is Health IT to the Kaine Administration?

Aneesh Chopra: Healthcare reform is one of Governor Kaine’s top four priorities and very shortly after we began service, he directed Health Secretary Marilyn Tavenner and me to Co-Chair the Office of Health IT. He formed a world-class Health IT Council and signed two Executive Orders promoting health IT policy. We collaborate extensively with the General Assembly through joint appointments to our respective health IT working groups.

How does this relate to your other responsibilities in the Kaine Administration?

Aneesh Chopra: Governor Kaine has asked me to spend about a third of my time simplifying government operations, a third on advancing his priority initiatives and a third promoting our vibrant technology economy. Health IT is uniquely positioned across all three roles.

To simplify government operations, we have begun procurement through the PPEA vehicle (designed to encourage unsolicited proposals from the private sector) and are actively recruiting applications for the Governor’s Productivity Investment Fund (www.pif.virginia.gov). Our work through the Health IT Council addresses his priority initiative and finally, we believe there is enormous job growth potential in this growing field.

Last month, I addressed the Southwest Virginia Technology Council in Abingdon, VA where we featured Dr. Jerry Miller of the Holston Medical Group as keynote. He has built a multi-million dollar health IT center of excellence in Duffield, VA to provide electronic medical records for physician practices. Northern Virginia’s HealthForce effort led by NVCC President Bob Templin predicts 40+% job growth in certain Health IT fields.

What role do you see universities playing on this topic?

Aneesh Chopra: In Northern Virginia, we awarded an innovation grant to the NoVARHIO initiative anchored at George Mason University and recently applied through a coalition of Southwest Virginia universities to a Microsoft grant to promote software development. We are just getting started.

Earlier this month, we announced the formation of the Chesapeake Crescent University Alliance comprised of GMU, Virginia Tech, Johns Hopkins, the University of Maryland and GWU to bring our region’s incredible research assets together to tackle strategic opportunities. I’m highly confident our region’s commitment to life sciences will play an important role with a natural connection to Health IT.

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