To keep health center personnel and staff well informed about the needs of LGBT populations, HRSA recently signed a cooperative agreement with Fenway Health in Boston to create a National Training and Technical Assistance Center. This center will provide technical support to all of HRSA’s community health centers on the needs of LGBT persons and populations. Fisher acknowledged that this is an ongoing subject that requires continuous monitoring and intervention at its health centers. In order to assist its community health centers in meeting the needs of LGBT patients, HRSA is gathering data on sexual orientation and gender identity with respect to health care settings. These data are shared with the community health centers.
Using a set of analytics tools, HRSA is now trying to assess where its community health centers are with regard to adoption of EHRs and where they are in achieving Stage 1 and Stage 2 meaningful use adoption. Yael Harris noted that Federally Qualified Health Centers annually report data to HRSA as part of their grantee requirements. Based on data reported in December 2011, 85 percent of the community health centers had some sort of EHR and an additional 10 percent planned to purchase one in the next 12 months. Some 90 percent of the centers planned to apply for meaningful use incentive funds, and 50 percent were working with one of the 62 Regional Extension Centers funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to provide information and technical assistance to small-to medium-sized provider practices to support meaningful use of EHRs.
In a survey conducted earlier by George Washington University’s Geiger Gibson Community Health Research Foundation, Harris noted that 70 percent of community health centers were using electronic records, but only 45 percent were completely electronic, using no paper in their collection of patient data. The discrepancy with the numbers reported to HRSA in December 2011 may indicate increased levels of adoption of electronic records. These numbers exceed the national rates for ambulatory care providers. In addition, 67 percent of the community health centers that serve migrant populations, 66 percent of those that provide health care for the homeless, and 73 percent of those associated with public housing units have an EHR. Additionally, of the 73 percent of the health centers that provide behavioral health services, about 50 percent use an EHR and are integrating the behavioral health components with their regular EHR. Most of the clinicians working at those facilities now have access to information on their patients’ mental health as well as primary care needs. The goal, Harris added, is to have all 1,200 community health centers meet meaningful use standards and become examples for other health care providers in their communities.