CIOs get candid about meaningful use at CHIME meeting

A dozen CIOs from hospitals and health systems nationwide were asked to write down their own definitions of "clinical adoption" within the context of applications they associate with "meaningful use" of EMRs, then a few shared their thoughts with the group.

"Paperless record," "acceptance" and "behavioral change," they said. A health IT consultant wrote those same words on an easel at the front of the room.

Another partner in the firm then showed some PowerPoint slides, explaining a proposed marketing campaign for consulting services to see if any of the points resonated with the CIOs. One CIO said he'd probably delete the solicitation email because he gets scores of similar offers every week and simply can't keep up. Another participant suggested the campaign might be more suited for a chief medical officer or chief medical informatics officer.

"That was a great piece of intelligence," one of the consultants later told me. The firm also benefited from the advice from another CIO, who said she felt dependent on her hospital's EMR vendor to assure the product is certified for meaningful use, though she's the one who will have to sign the meaningful-use attestation the hospital must send to CMS. Perhaps the consulting firm could provide some kind of compliance assessment prior to attestation, a couple of CIOs suggested.

A year ago, I would have never been privy to this kind of information. Vendors traditionally have paid big bucks to convene focus groups at the annual College of Healthcare Information Management Executives CIO Forum--and at CHIME's smaller spring meeting--so they can pick the brains of hospital IT leaders. The focus groups are such a big part of the CHIME meeting that the organization even sets aside 4.5 hours of prime meeting time over two days for nothing but these sessions. And until Wednesday, they were closed to the media.

This year, CHIME decided to experiment by giving vendors the option of allowing one--and only one--reporter to sit in on each session. Not every vendor agreed, but nearly 30 did, on the condition that the press not participate in the discussion and not quote anyone by name without individual consent.

I watched this focus group and another one from a health information exchange vendor. It was a fascinating experiment in health IT sausage-making. And it taught me what it means to aggregate de-identified data. I'd like to try it again. - Neil