Highmark Inc. Moves Forward With Funding for Physician Adoption of Health Information Technology


Highmark Inc. announced today that it is contributing $29 million to help physicians acquire ePrescribing/eHealth Record technology for their practices.

This initiative is an alternative to a similar program Highmark announced in 2005 in which the company contributed significant funding to promote the adoption of health information technology by physicians. Highmark contributed the funds to The Pittsburgh Foundation to establish the Highmark eHealth Collaborative, a supporting organization of the foundation, to fund grants to physicians to acquire electronic technology with ePrescribing and electronic health records capabilities.

In order to disburse funds to physicians, the collaborative was required to obtain 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS has been conducting a lengthy review of this and other initiatives that support the adoption of health information technology by physicians and has not yet rendered an opinion as to the tax exemption.

“Due to the delay concerning tax-exempt status for the Highmark eHealth Collaborative, the Highmark Board of Directors decided to approve funding to support physicians directly from Highmark instead of through the collaborative,” said Dr. Kenneth Melani, Highmark president and chief executive officer. “Under this model, tax-exempt status is not required before funds can be allocated. Highmark will directly provide the funds used to help finance electronic health solutions for Highmark network physicians in our service area. We hope to be able to begin administering grants to physicians later this summer.”

Application information from physicians seeking health information technology funding that was sent to the Highmark eHealth Collaborative will be provided to Highmark, and grant requests will be considered based on the order in which they were received. The grant application process, in which applications have been accepted during the past two-and-a-half years, is now closed.

“Through this initiative, sufficient funding will be available to meet the large number of requests previously received from physicians,” said Melani.

Highmark will pay up to 75 percent of the cost for a physician’s office to acquire, install and implement an electronic technology system, up to a maximum of $7,000 per physician, with the physician’s practice to pay the remaining balance.

By eliminating handwriting interpretation and administrative work associated with paper processing, integrated electronic technology with ePrescribing and electronic health records capabilities can help ensure patient safety and reduce medical errors and expenses. Such technology systems can also indicate medications that could adversely interact with other drugs.

Highmark considers its initiative to be a critical step toward full utilization of electronic health records and the facilitation of health information exchanges that will improve access to patients’ medical histories, including medications, test results and care-management programs.

About Highmark Inc.

As one of the leading health insurers in Pennsylvania, Highmark Inc.’s mission is to provide access to affordable, quality health care enabling individuals to live longer, healthier lives. Highmark serves 4.6 million people through the company’s health care benefits business.

SOURCE Highmark Inc.

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