McClellan to forge new foundation for CAST

At a glance…

Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, the new chairman of the CAST Commission, will try to lay the foundation for a better understanding of how health IT and other technologies can be adopted effectively and lead to improved care for older adults.

One of the top experts in healthcare policy, Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, has been named to chair the Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST) Commission, an international coalition that is focused on developing, evaluating, and adopting emerging technologies for long-term care.

A former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), McClellan is now director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform and Leonard D. Schaeffer Chair of Health Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution.

In his role at CAST, McClellan will help drive research and education around key policy issues to advance aging services technologies, as well as support efforts that educate healthcare professionals on how health information technology (IT) can benefit older adults and their caregivers.

“Health IT has the potential to greatly improve patient health and quality of life outcomes, but its success is far from automatic,” McClellan said. “The CAST Commission will lay the foundation for better understanding how health IT and other technologies can be adopted effectively and lead to improved care for older adults-no matter where that care is received.”

Comprised of more than 4,500 technology companies, aging services organizations, businesses, research universities, and government representatives, CAST is supported by the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA).

According to AAHSA, CAST’s mission “is to unleash the potential of technology for innovative development across the continuum of healthcare, housing and services for the aging.” The organization focuses on four goals:

  • Drive a global vision of how technologies can improve the quality of life for seniors while reducing healthcare costs.

  • Accelerate technology research and development through pilot evaluations with seniors.

  • Advocate the removal of barriers to the rapid commercialization of proven solutions.

  • Promote a dialogue about standards to ensure interoperability and widespread access to aging services technologies.

“Health IT has the potential to greatly improve patient health and quality of life outcomes, but its success is far from automatic.”

Mark McClellan, MD, PhD

Chairman, CAST

At a February 21, 2010, meeting in Washington D.C., the CAST commissioners developed three core recommendations for actions to be taken, as resources permit, to begin the process of increasing the technology adoption rate among CAST and AAHSA members:

  • Facilitate regional meetings during which providers who have been pioneer adopters of technology can share their successes, identify the barriers they face, and provide practical information that might spur other providers to follow their examples.

  • Develop a menu of road maps that could guide providers of aging services in their efforts to adopt and implement technology within their organizations.

  • Organize an exploratory meeting between AAHSA providers, financiers, and investors to explore new viable financing opportunities for aging services technologies.

During the session, CAST Director Majd Alwan, PhD, said the organization is shifting from the process of developing standards to adoption of healthcare IT (HIT). He said the Center is currently adapting a HIT benchmarking tool, originally developed for nursing homes through a federal grant so it can help organizations assess their “HIT maturity.”

The sixth annual Health Information Technology Summit, June 6 to 8 in Baltimore, provided an opportunity for vendors and providers to demonstrate how they exchange health information across different settings, Alwan said.

In addition, according to Alwan, CAST is participating in dissemination of two important technical assistance tools that will give CAST and AAHSA members practical information they can use to adopt HIT-an updated version of a HIT Adoption road map for 2010 to 2012, and working with Aging Services of Minnesota, promotion of two toolkits that provide technical assistance about technology adoption for nursing homes, assisted living communities, and home health organizations. CAST provides links to the toolkits from its Web site ( and sponsored a session about the toolkits at AAHSA’s Future of Aging Services conference this past February.

According to Zachary Sikes, AAHSA senior vice president of corporate relations and business development, CAST, and the Institute for the Future of Aging Services (IFAS) at AAHSA are undertaking a study, funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which is examining the feasibility of deploying “telehealth” kiosks in nutrition centers to help manage high blood pressure.

The study will evaluate the willingness, compliance, and ability of older people and their health professionals to use a telehealth intervention to manage hypertension.

Sikes also noted that CAST partnered with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) to submit a proposal to evaluate the need to extend HIT adoption incentives to healthcare providers who are ineligible for incentives under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The study was mandated by that law.

CAST and NORC also have been approved for funding under a grant to examine the barriers to innovation in and the adoption of aging services technologies. When completed, the Department of Health and Human Services will submit the study report, along with recommendations, to Congress.

In September, CAST, AAHSA, and IFAS will learn whether their proposal to establish an AHRQ-supported Active Aging Research Center has been funded, Sikes said. “AHRQ would like the center to enhance quality of life and improve quality of care for older people by fostering the evaluation, adoption, and translation of technologies that support independence, and promoting person-centered care through the engagement of caregivers and social networks in the care process,” he explained.

The program will include an initial five-year $10 million budget to establish the center’s infrastructure and implement projects that involve evaluating technologies, disseminating research findings, and translating new care delivery approaches into practice.

Marsha Greenfield, AAHSA vice president of legislative affairs, pointed out that under the ARRA, the CMS will soon begin providing financial incentives to hospitals and physician practices that demonstrate they are making “meaningful use” of electronic health records.

While providers of long-term and post-acute care are not eligible for the incentive program, they can participate in ARRA-funded grant programs at the state level if they partner with local entities.

Bob Gatty has covered governmental developments of the trade and business press for more than 30 years. He is founder and president of G-Net Strategic Communications, Sykesville, Maryland.

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Long-Term Living 2010 June;59(6):16-18

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