CHRISTIANSTED — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. Friday announced that the U.S. Virgin Islands has been awarded $14.9 million in federal funding to implement a Health Information Exchange (HIE) for the territory’s approximately 29,000 Medicaid recipients and to continue promoting the use of certified electronic health record technology by healthcare providers.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (HHS-CMS) has approved $14,990,078 to be used between fiscal years 2020 and 2021 to build an HIE for Virgin Islands Medicaid recipients.
The funding is also to be used for the continued administration of the Promoting Interoperability program in the territory.
HHS-CMS’ funding approval authorizes $8,810,501 for Fiscal Year 2020 and $4,680,569 for Fiscal Year 2021, with the federal share at $13,491,070, or 90 percent, and a local match of $1,499,008 or 10 percent.
The Virgin Islands Department of Human Services will administer the funds and is tasked with establishing the HIE. A HIE allows doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare providers and patients to access and securely share a patient’s vital medical information electronically – improving the speed, quality, safety and cost of patient care.
“Implementing a health information exchange in the USVI is essential to building a 21st century healthcare infrastructure,” Bryan said Thursday. “A real-time interoperable territorial HIE is critical because it would eliminate redundant tests and procedures, increase patient engagement by allowing patients to view their health information in real time, and increase quality of care since longitudinal information may exist. Overall this will improve health outcomes.”
Also, in 2011, HHS-CMS created the Promoting Interoperability program which incentivizes eligible professionals and hospitals to adopt, implement, upgrade as well as successfully demonstrate the use of certified electronic health record technology.
“This effort will require strategic partnerships between the public and private sectors and nongovernmental organizations,” the governor said. “These partners must work collectively and collaboratively to develop and sustain the territorial HIE. We must also look beyond our current needs and plan for the future. The territorial HIE should be not limited to local public and private providers but also to those providing care on the US mainland and beyond.”
HHS-CMS plans to conduct onsite reviews of the program to determine if the objectives for which the federal funding was approved are being accomplished and to verify that the program is being administered effectively and efficiently.
Governor Bryan thanked former Delegate to Congress Donna Christiansen, and leadership teams of the Virgin Islands departments of Health and Human Services and local hospital and health center officials for working closely with his office on the HIE initiative.
Meanwhile, some reaction on the Virgin Islands Free Press main site was critical of the way the announcement was couched by Government House.
“Amazing how many people want to take credit for a federal program,” Tom Cruzan said. “The Governor should be thanking the federal government not these lazy bums that are just now trying to implement something that’s been out there for more than a decade.”