With the recent announcement of $42 million in funding of Health Centered Controlled Networks (HCCN), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources (HHS) has signaled its enthusiasm to deploy health information technology to achieve better outcomes and cost control. Such community care coordination is key in the shift from fee-for-service care (episodal care) to value-based care (whole person care).
“Health centers play a crucial role in providing their communities with access to high quality, affordable healthcare,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “Investing in more advanced health IT will help put patients at the center and unleash the power of data, helping us get better value from the care delivered by health centers.”
The awards will enable the HCCNs to support 1,183 federally-funded health centers across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to expand the use of health information technology. The focus on health information technology is a crucial strategy in improving patient centricity. When patients’ feel they have a say and a stake, they are more likely to take ownership of their care. Such whole person care strategies are especially needed in underserved communities. According to the Health Resources & Services Administration, an HHS department, HCCNs are uniquely positioned to offer data analytics in support of such measurement and improvement. Specifically, the $42 million in funding can be used to:
- Increase patients’ access to their personal health data
- Improve patients’ engagement with their health care team
- Improve health IT usability to minimize provider burden
- Run security risk assessments and develop risk reduction strategies
- Increase the use of national standards to share patient information securely with key partners
- Use both clinical and non-clinical data to improve and coordinate care
- Improve analytics capacity to support value-based care activities
- Use social determinants of health (SDoH) to improve both population and patient health in support of primary and community care coordination
Examples of such successful projects under past funding include the Community Health Center Network in Alameda, CA. Organized as a community care coordination network, the seven-member clinics provided technical assistance to health information technology workgroups in the purchase of and adoption of health information technology platforms. The Alameda operation also instituted a quality improvement program using their data warehouse, manual audits, and disease registries, with results exceeding national benchmarks. The CHC Collaboration in Tucson, AZ, achieved similar results in improving their daily business infrastructure. This was accomplished through software development, deployment of business software to improve budgeting and controlling expenses, as well as software screening of 50,000 members over five years to determine Medicaid eligibility and needed services.
HCCNs are groups of health centers collaborating to improve operational and clinical practices. To realize such goals, HCCNs help make technology more available for providers and patients to use by increasing the security of patient information and using data to foster whole-person care through a primary care network. According to the National Association of Community Health Centers, HCCN health information technology accomplishments include:
1: HCCN participation in the HSS health information technology program is growing; between 2016 and 2019, participation increased from 70% to 86% of HRSA-funded health centers.
2: 98 percent of health centers have installed Electronic Health Records (EHR)
3: 89 percent of health centers are participating in Meaningful Use (the application of patient data to improve whole-person care and control costs).
4: Over 1,020 (74 percent) of health centers nationally are participating in health center-controlled networks
“Improvements in information technology will enhance the patient, and provider experience as (HCCNs) continue to deliver high-quality primary care in underserved communities across the nation,” said HRSA Administrator Dr. George Sigounas about the most recent grants.