HIMSS Highlights
Interoperability big story at HIMSS 2006

The annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2006 conference kicked off in February in San Diego with a bang, and those lucky enough to attend experienced a variety of provocative sessions. The conference brought in an estimated 24,500 healthcare professionals and focused on movement within governmental bodies and the challenge of designing and implementing interoperative EHRs.

The week included high-profile keynote speakers such as David Brailer (see story below) and former U.S. Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Tom Ridge.

Education sessions at the conference, some 200 in all, touched on many industry hot buttons, such as standards harmonization as well as health IT as a foundation for an overall improvement in healthcare.

HIMSS 2006 also gave attendees access to the IHE Interoperability Showcase that provided interactive EHR-related information through an exhibit featuring the latest technology and standards.

Brailer: HIT at turning point

In his keynote at HIMSS, David Brailer, MD, PhD, national coordinator of HIT, told an audience of thousands, “We are poised for one of the greatest changes in healthcare that America has seen in decades.”

“We’ve come a remarkable distance in the past two years,” said Brailer, noting that the infrastructure being created will drive sustained and robust growth. RHIOs are coming together in every community without prompting and “moved forward independently with great courage,” he said.

Key to continued success will be including consumers in HIT efforts. “We must bring consumers along and give them their rightful place in health information,” he said.

Brailer also said he hopes to avoid mandates and conditions of participation. “Only the marketplace can ensure that we have sustained innovation,” he said.

Intel chairman points to IT to solve healthcare crisis

It’s up to healthcare IT industry to develop and implement solutions to the impending healthcare crisis, Intel Chairman Craig Barrett said during his HIMSS 06 keynote address.

The solutions must address both small clinics and practices, and larger, relatively well IT-invested enterprises. Aging baby boomers will compound and exacerbate the problem. Neither raising taxes nor rationing care offers a viable solution. “Technology is the only solution,” affirmed Barrett.

Solving the problem requires a coordinated deployment among the public and private sector, he said, especially large employers that can educate employees and use their purchasing power to use suppliers aligned with the vision of IT-driven healthcare.

Drafting IT contracts that work

Diana J.P. McKenzie, chair, information technology practice group at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP (Chicago), at HIMSS provided some advice for drafting contracts. She recommends that hospitals: Avoid shorter, less precise contracts; use specific dates or date-based time references for vendor obligations; check to make sure formulas work; and closely scrutinize the definitions of the following terms: solely, estimate, may, goal and could.

HIMSS Interoperability Showcase set up as mock RHIO

Various clinical scenarios demonstrated how existing information technology can exchange health data as part of the mock RHIO. Attendees created their own virtual health record and then accessed it in the various healthcare settings represented. Representatives from the various participants demonstrated their products and showed attendees how similar their health records looked on competing systems.

HIMSS leadership study to-do list: Keep patients happy, safe, and get rid of paper

Patient satisfaction and safety are the two biggest healthcare issues that will be faced in coming years, and along with that comes the implementation of health IT. These conclusions come from the 17th Annual HIMSS Leadership Survey.

Concerns over patient satisfaction is on the rise as a top business concern, with a bit more than half the respondents (51 percent) placing it as the most pressing issue — a rise from 44 percent in last year’s results. But the worries don’t stop there, other major business issues cited include Medicare cutbacks (50 percent) and reducing medical errors (44 percent), according to the survey.

Half of those taking the survey believe that instituting health IT programs is paramount in reducing medical errors and improving safety. Of all health IT applications, 61 percent of executive respondents view EMRs as the most vital to seeing these improvements to fruition.

In other findings, over the next two years, participants believe that most technologies of importance will be: bar-coding prescription medication (58 percent) and CPOE (52 percent).

HIPAA Survey: Moving towards long-term healthcare benefit

Although HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) was adopted 10 years ago, its potential to change healthcare is still evolving, according to results of the twice-yearly U.S. Healthcare Industry HIPAA Survey.

Survey results showed that providers have begun implementing return on investment (ROI) initiatives, including:
  • Adoption of computerized practitioner order entry (CPOE)
  • Conversion to a paperless medical record
  • Transacting directly with payers and not clearinghouses.
The survey also found that 1 percent of providers have begun ROI implementation while 21 percent plan to in the future.

Physicians’ IT Symposium covered HIT obstacles

Congressman Phil Gingrey, MD, opened the Physicians’ IT Symposium by providing a strategic framework to guide the American health information technology community. Tort reform, reimbursement and pay for performance all drive healthcare IT at the federal level, said Gingrey.

Mark Leavitt, MD, PhD, HHS secretary and chair of the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology, and several other health IT leaders, answered the question: what are HIMSS themes next year, in 2010 and in 10 years?

The panel agreed: Costs, access, privacy, declining reimbursement and reverse incentives will remain major factors.


RHIO Symposium keynote sets timeline for national healthcare information network

Kelly Cronin, senior advisor, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), said that CMS has contracted with four consortia to create prototypes for a national healthcare information network (NHIN) that must present use cases in March, an operational plan is due in August, and revenue and certification models are due in October.

Five components that must be addressed to advance RHIOs, according to CMS’ Cronin:
  1. Standards
  2. Compliance certification
  3. National Healthcare Information Network
  4. Privacy and security
  5. Healthcare information technology (HIT) adoption
“RHIOs are a good first step to interoperability,” she said. They provide framework for a nongovernmental, multistakeholder organization and bring a business model to the forefront.

RHIOs are businesses that need plans

“A RHIO is a business,” said Bruce Fried, JD, partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP  at the RHIO Symposium at HIMSS. Even though there are few models for starting a RHIO, like any other new business, the entrepreneurs still need a business plan.

To generate capital, you need a pool of money and a regular stream of revenue, said Howard A. Burde, JD, chair of the Health Law Group, Blank Rome LLP. That may be taxes and user fees. Fried said he’d like to see more people exploring the option of funding their RHIO off the savings they’ll reap off the backend. Non-profits are the easiest to form and most existing RHIOs are nonprofits. That allows them to apply for grants, although a fully federally funded RHIO is unlikely, said Burde.