Meaningful Use: Building blocks for bigger vision at a Michigan Critical Access Hospital

Leila Samy | September 20, 2013

This is one in a series of blog posts to coincide with National Health IT Week. To follow the conversation on Twitter, look for the #NHITweek hashtag.

During one of my regular visits over the phone with Ed Gamache, CEO of Harbor Beach Community Hospital, in Harbor Beach, MI, I learned a bit about how his critical access hospital is not only participating in the EHR program, but showcasing techniques to achieve desired results.

Ed and his team had a vision, well before the EHR incentive program, a vision bigger than Meaningful Use. It was:

  1. Create a seamless process for continuous care coordination with hospitals and providers caring for the same patients, and
  2. Design a formal process for engaging patients.

Ed and his team wanted to move away from fragmented care and make sure that Harbor Beach never lost sight of its patients’ well being. They had this vision, but under the old paper records system, they didn’t have the necessary structure, tools or workflow to make it a reality. 60% of their patients received care from hospitals outside their community. When these patients came back to their community the hospital would have to rely on the memory of the patient alone to obtain key treatment information.

Harbor Beach wanted to improve health outcomes by increasing patient accountability. They did this through a Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) structure, formalizing the process by which physicians and clinic staff engaged their patients to set goals and commit to the next steps in their own care.

Meaningful Use of health IT merely accelerated the timeline for Harbor Beach to implement PCMH and move closer toward its goals.

Another perk of being on the cutting edge as a Critical Access Hospital

Harbor Beach and other Critical Access Hospitals that are driving the incredible momentum we see get an opportunity to shape the progression, direction and evolution of the technologies moving forward.

“We actually have flexibility to influence new designs that fit our unique needs,” Gamache told the Buzz blog.

Critical Access Hospitals paving the way for developing medical home structure

With the successful application of grant funds and most recent accelerated incentive payment methods provided to Critical Access Hospital facilities through ACA, HBCH has all the elements to successfully develop the medical home structure in the two primary care and orthopedic practices.  With the installation of the office EMR system, a separate structured process of implementation started that will lead to certification by BCBS of Michigan as a PCMH. We are also preparing the facility for the development of other population health management processes and payment methodologies.

Planning has started to evaluate the final link connecting the local EMR to one of the state health information exchanges and we have established initial agreements with CPSI to add the provision of EMR patient portals to complete development of a local community integrated information system.

If you have comments or questions about rural health, Critical Access Hospitals or small rural hospitals adopting health IT, please email Leila Samy at Leila.Samy@hhs.gov