The Jewish Association on Aging is lobbying for a change in law that would enable it, and other long-term care providers, to qualify for federal funding for electronic medical records.
Access to such record keeping is critical to the survival of long-term care services, the JAA maintains.
JAA President and CEO Debbie Winn-Horvitz met in Washington Jan. 28 with Kathy Greenlee, assistant secretary for aging at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to discuss challenges facing long-term care facilities such as hers. Don Shulman, CEO of the National Association of Jewish Aging Services, who also attended, facilitated the meeting.
Chief among JAA’s concerns is the wording of the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act — the so-called HITECH Act — which provides funding to physicians’ practices and smaller hospitals, but not post-acute care facilities such as Charles Morris Nursing and Rehabilitation
Center, to adopt electronic record-keeping systems.
“We were completely left out,” Winn-Horvitz said. “Now that we’re in a position of working closely with our hospital partners, our ability to have access to electronic medical records is really critical for us to remain competitive.”
As the executive of a peer-recognized long-term care organization, Winn-Horvitz appealed to Greenlee how necessary electronic records are to her facilities.
She noted that Charles Morris just earned a five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMS). The five-star rating system is a national ranking system of nursing homes, and five stars is the highest rating possible, with only 10 percent of all skilled nursing facilities achieving this rating.
Greenlee reportedly acknowledged the need for JAA and similar organizations to have electronic medical records, but she also warned that any changes to the law would be “incremental,” and would not happen right away. Indeed, as Winn-Horvitz said, they would “literally take an act of Congress.”
Which is why one JAA board member recently met with U.S. Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. about the HITECH Act, while Winn-Horvitz herself has met with the director of the regional office of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey.
“Things are changing in long-term care faster than they have,” Winn-Horvitz said. “There is a lot more focus now on long-term care and how we can be better partners [with acute care hospitals], and technology is an important component of that.”
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)