Dispatches From the Largest Healthcare IT Conference of the Year

We did it. Another year of HIMSS, the largest, annual health care IT conference, has gone by and as one of my colleagues let me know, it's just 370 some-odd days away from HIMSS 2013. In general, the show was fantastic. People (healthcare CIOs, CMIOs, CNOs, physicians, etc.) more so than ever before, were eager to engage on the topic of innovation and health care as it relates to driving real change and tangible improvement. Big topics were a buzz throughout the show:

  • The delay of ICD-10 (an enormous shift in medical coding),
  • The unveiling of the stage 2 Meaningful Use regulations (the initiative for patient information to become digital and broadly available within electronic medical record systems),
  • Mobility (doctors are embracing the mobile device nearly as fast as consumers),
  • Leveraging data in new, smarter ways (how clinical information can be leveraged for knowledge and to drive better decisions in health care)
  • The demand for health care IT staff... (big goals with innovation in health care will only be possible with people to support and drive the initiatives)
  • ... The list goes on...

What we heard about ICD-10... ICD-10 requires a huge shift and a lot of organizations are approaching it right at the point-of-care. The thought is that if physicians can document an ICD-10-ready medical record, meaning it has adequate detail and specificity, then the coding and billing process will be streamlined. Many organizations are working to understand how they can leverage technology to monitor physicians' documentation and in real-time detect missing information; if missing information is detected, they want the physician to be prompted for additional detail so that what is ultimately documented complies with ICD-9 and ICD-10 coding standards. At a time, when ICD-10 seems daunting for many, technology is showing itself as a major support system for making this huge shift a reality. Even with the delay of ICD-10 being required, many organizations are rightfully so moving full-steam ahead so they can measure the impact and realize the value of the new coding system.

Meaningful Use... HIMSS was a fantastic setting for the ONC to announce stage 2 regulations. So many HIMSS attendees were given the opportunity to get the information firsthand and to engage with CMS and the ONC on the topic. Key issues that stand out as part of stage 2 are interoperability and health information exchange -- really compelling and critical issues. It's exciting that guidelines and timelines are being put in place to make possible, no matter if a patient is in Florida or Seattle receiving care, for doctors to access their medical records and health history. Also, the advancement of patient engagement in health care has been highlighted within the regulations, soon making it imaginable for patients to access information (such as test results) online shortly after medical visits. The ONC is looking for public feedback at this point and for suggested changes. Over the coming weeks, as the regulations are fully digested it should be interesting to see what areas people are in support of and what areas people want more direction on.

ACOs... Of course people were talking about Accountable Care Organizations, the idea of tying health care reimbursements to quality metrics vs. a pay-for-service model. Many in the industry believe that in time with improved use of electronic health records and when healthcare information exchange is possible across disparate locations that better data analytics will ultimately lead to ACOs becoming more achievable.

There's no better time to be within the world of health care IT -- an incredible change-agent to our ever-evolving and improving healthcare system.