Health information technology, care coordination, and cost containment have increasingly become entwined in health care policy. Medicare and Medicaid both have electronic health record (EHR) incentive programs to encourage physicians, hospitals, and other providers to use them. Electronic patient communication also is part of care coordination models, such as patient-centered medical homes (PCMH).

Washington State Adopts EHR Best Practices for Emergency Rooms:

Last year, the Washington State Legislature took a big step to promote electronic health records as a means to save money in the Medicaid budget. The legislature directed the state Health Care Authority, which runs the Washington Medicaid program, to establish seven best practices that would reduce emergency room expenditures by 12 percent. Hospitals serving Medicaid enrollees would help to craft and would be expected to adopt the practices.

The best practices included:

EHRs Save Medicaid Money, Reduce Emergency Room Visits:

The Washington Health Care Authority recently gave the legislature a progress report on the Medicaid EHR program. Though the report is careful to say the program has not been in place long enough to draw final conclusions, the initial results are very promising.

The most important finding is that the electronic health records program led to annual Medicaid savings of about $33 million: $23 million in Medicaid managed care and another $10 million for fee-for-service Medicaid, though estimating FFS savings are always more difficult.

Other key findings were:

Kudos to MaryAnne Lindeblad and her excellent team at the Washington Health Care Authority for their great work.