Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Thoughts from 2010 HIMSS Annual Conference in Atlanta, GA

The federal government is using the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), in part, as an impetus for the nation’s health care organizations to acquire the health IT necessary to manage costs and improve patient care. The HIMSS Annual conference held March 1 - 4, 2010 provided an opportunity for more than 900 vendors to showcase their potential configurations of meaningful use of their products.  Health care leaders and HIMSS members helped to educate the more than 27,500 attendees what is possible when a health information exchange is put in place to foster community collaboration in association with commercial vendors. When interoperable electronic health record systems are coupled with the required infrastructure vendors the possibilities to improve the delivery of quality patient care harnesses the power of Health IT and can make the difference in health care delivery.  

More than 300 educational sessions were delivered on hot topics such as meaningful use standards, certification criteria, meaningful use standards, certification criteria, ARRA and government contributions to advancing health IT and nationwide electronic health records, and health IT privacy and security practices that will be necessary. I had the pleasure of moderating two of the Health Information Exchange (HIE) sessions. I see the state initiatives as the key to adopting the standards, implementation specifications and certification criteria that will incrementally enhance the interoperability, functionality, utility, and security of HIT. States will be the ones empowered to engage public-private sector discussions, develop policies and support demonstration projects, where appropriate, to explore incentives, penalties, and other mechanisms to help increase business demand and public support for exchange and encourage a plurality of exchange architectures that are cost effective and sustainable.

It was rewarding to again fulfill my HIMSS volunteer duties within the HIMSS10 Interoperability Showcase which was more than double the size of the largest in show history at over 25,000 square feet.  New this year was the collaboration between the HIMSS Interoperability Showcase and the Federal Health Architecture, featuring “A Path to Improved Care: Communities CONNECTing to the NHIN,” demonstrating advanced technology that allows the exchange of information between government entities and the private sector. The combination of both the IHE/HITSP standards-based demonstration along with the additional federal partners provided eighty-four participants demonstrating 96 unique systems, and more than 50 clinical scenarios while highlighting a proposed metric for achieving meaningful use. This is a significant increase from the 2009 showcase I was responsible for before transitioning my 5 year leadership period and leaving HIMSS in 2009 when 72 participants demonstrated interoperability of 60 unique systems. I can say that I feel like the proud mother of a successful child who has finally grown beyond the toddler years and has endless years of life to blossom. I had the opportunity to help educate attendees as a speaker for two presentations within the showcase theaters and I volunteered as a docent tour leader to share several of the wonderful scenarios demonstrated during my shift of 3 hours. The showcase and all the other conference activities provided an opportunity to learn from many of my fellow peers, visit with old friends, while networking and attending sessions.

It is great to see the continued evolution towards adoption of technology used within health care in a meaningful way. I hope to continue evangelizing and promoting the use of HIT. The Office of the National Coordinator continues to evolve and grow with staff leading focused areas.  (ONC) announced a new initiative called NHIN Direct. As one of the members currently involved with the current NHIN work accomplished to date, I do have to agree with John Halamka who recently blogged "NHIN Direct is a powerful idea...a reference implementation for simple transport of data packages (X12, NCPDP, HL7 v2, CDA, CCR) among payers, providers and patients. NHIN Direct will assemble energetic, well intentioned people to create open source software that solves real world transport problems." I see NHIN Direct as another component to help fill the gaps of HIE, but am wary of the quick timelines proposed.  I am interested and look forward to participating to learn more. Living in the real world running Serendipity Health to deploy connected health care, I see that my state has gaps of infrastructure in rural areas to achieve the connectivity necessary.

I look forward to seeing the new Notice on Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) for Meaningful Use document after all comments are reviewed and resolved to allow us to begin deploying a Learning Health System and the HITECH Act Framework for Meaningful Use of EHRs." I don't envy those at ONC that will have to review all comments received for the NPRM and IFR. Having been involved with the comment compilation from various organizations and having reviewed many of the submissions myself from stakeholders, there are many diverse points of view that will have to be onsidered. It seems like a lifetime getting to this point, but I have hope after the HIMSS conference and am excited to have the opportunity to be a champion and leader while helping evangelize and deploy these initiatives in Tennessee and across the nation. Each state has different priorities and are in the process of developing plans for how best to distribute funding and as of March 15 all states have received funding to incrementally advance their initiatives.

My home state of TN has designated the Health information Partnership of Tennessee (HIP-TN) to collaborate with stakeholders from across the state to determine priorities and distribute the $24 million in recovery act grants funding for adoption, education and training. I look forward to continuing my participation on the technical work group for HIP-TN. I am also working in partnership with staff and committees of CareSpark in East TN which is one of Tennessee's  functional HIE's. I will be helping CareSpark with the technical deployment deliverables as required by some of the recent funding they have received from ONC and the Social Security Administration (SSA). I will also work with CareSpark to connect various providers, hospitals and public health in East TN and Southwest VA. I look forward to working with others in our state to determine the process and communicate the messaging to enable organizations to leverage buying power to be offered and reduce the total cost of ownership of goods and services to foster smarter buying practices that I will call strategic sourcing.  Much of what I have been responsible for demonstrating at HIMSS Interoperability Showcases since 2004 is finally starting to become reality and I am anxious to have the opportunity to use my previous experiences and knowledge to help our various stakeholders within TN and in other states as opportunities arise.  I truly want to help improve the health care outcomes for my family, friends and others in my community while learning along the way.  More to come as we traverse this year ahead...