Thursday, March 17, 2016

Key themes and take-aways from #HIMSS16

The annual HIMSS conference in Las Vegas was once again packed with news, keynotes and educational sessions bringing us all up to speed on important advances in health care. The major themes for HIMSS16 included interoperability and data exchange, population health, mobile health (mHealth) including telemedicine and the ever-shifting world of regulatory changes.

After the Pre-Conference Symposia and the CHIME CIO Forum (where Healthagen president Gary Loveman was a keynote speaker), HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell kicked off HIMSS16 with her keynote address to a packed room. Secretary Burwell announced an industry-wide pledge to improve interoperability across all EHRs and health care systems. The commitment has three parts: improving consumer access to health data, eliminating intentional data blocking and implementing federal standards for health data interoperability. The majority of EHR vendors, including Epic Systems, Cerner Corporation and McKesson, have signed the Interoperability Pledge, as have five of the nation’s largest health systems and numerous professional organizations.

Among the many ONC and CMS contributions, there were highly informative sessions on MACRA, MIPS, meaningful use and health IT certification. A proposed rule released just before the conference, the “ONC Health IT Certification Program: Enhanced Oversight and Accountability” rule, proposes giving HHS and ONC powers to certify health IT technologies in three key areas:

  • Direct review: Empowering ONC to review certified health IT products and EHR systems to assess risks to public health and safety, conducting the review through its authorized certification bodies
  • Enhanced oversight: Giving ONC greater purview over health IT testing bodies to address issues that arise during testing
  • Greater transparency and accountability: Making certified health IT performance and compliance information available to the public

The ONC also announced a three-part strategy to spur the development of market-ready, user-friendly software apps for consumers and providers. The strategy seeks to leverage the emerging FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) standard in two app challenges and a competitive funding opportunity, with awards totaling $625,000.

A particularly fascinating session entitled “Radically Reforming ER ‘Super Utilizers’ with HIE” was presented by Doug Dietzman, the executive director of Great Lakes Health Connect (GLHC), a self-sustaining health information exchange in Grand Rapids, Mich. and R. Corey Waller MD, MS, an addiction, pain, and emergency medicine specialist in Grand Rapids, working within the Spectrum Health system. Five years ago, the Center for Integrative Medicine began a program focused on “Super Utilizers,” patients who seek treatment in local emergency rooms more than 10 times annually. GLHC prioritizes care coordination, and the speakers shared lessons learned in facilitating an enhanced patient experience, better outcomes and reduced healthcare costs. "FHIR is a better-designed Lego," said Dietzman during the session. "I'm looking forward to having it in my toolbox."

This year’s conference continued an emphasis on population health, with a focus on succeeding in alternative payment models. As CMS shifts its incentive programs towards encouraging the adoption of health IT that supports value-based payments, population health management tools become a key enabler for improved financial performance. Seamless data exchange and analytics capabilities that include both claims data and real-time clinical information were heavily emphasized. Medicity solutions – including Medicity® Explore TM SmartNetworks, which debuted at HIMSS16 – provide health systems with many of these capabilities.

Telehealth and mHealth came into sharp focus this year, with health systems talking about what they are actually doing, rather than simply planning. One of the more interesting vendor announcements came from Philips, which has achieved FDA 510(k) compliance for Care Orchestrator – a cloud-based clinical management application that connects sleep and respiratory care devices. Telehealth provider Teladoc announced that it started 2016 with more than 14 million members, including 40 Fortune 500 companies that became clients in January. A session on the newly released HIMSS Analytics Telemedicine Study covered adoption trends, deployment methods and top technologies in use, with 70 percent of study participants reporting the use of two-way video/webcam solutions – making it today’s leading approach to telemedicine.

So that’s my take on HIMSS16: Serious progress being made in interoperability, regulatory impact, population health and alternative payment models, and telehealth and mHealth. Taking it all in was challenging, and as everyone who attended can attest, HIMSS can be exhausting. And now the work accelerates – be sure to follow me on Twitter (@ahier) for regular updates on all things health IT!

This post originally appeared on the Medicity blog