HIPAA, accountable care among top 2014 priorities for HIT professionals

Forthcoming federal regulatory efforts and the increased use of business intelligence tools remain top-of-mind issues for hospital executives and healthcare professionals on FierceHealthIT's Editorial Advisory Board entering 2014.

For instance, Neal Ganguly (right), vice president and CIO at Edison, N.J.-based JFK Health System, told FierceHealthIT that for many facilities that spent last year trying to figure out how to support a "robust" accountable care environment, 2014 likely will be a continuation of those efforts. In addition, he said, despite an overwhelming scope and high costs, business intelligence will be even more important this year than it has been in the past.

"There is a clear need to prioritize BI initiatives into more manageable and attainable project horizons," Ganguly said.

Donna Staton (left), CIO at Fauquier Health System in Warrenton, Va., echoed Ganguly's sentiments on the latter, adding that such tools are becoming "differentiators" in terms of readmissions management and care improvement. "This quickly separates the haves from the have nots," Staton told FierceHealthIT.

Attorney David Harlow, principal of the Boston-based Harlow Group, said he thought that by virtue of its long [and expanded] reach, the HIPAA Omnibus Rule will be a top priority--if not the top priority--for providers and executives throughout 2014.

"HIPAA has an effect on all sectors of the healthcare information ecosystem: healthcare providers, EHR vendors, big data analytics shops, researchers, marketers app developers, web developers, entrepreneurs creating new sectors, and patients, too," Harlow (right) told FierceHealthIT. "I hope that [by the end of the year] we see no more stories about unencrypted mobile devices with millions of patient records on them being stolen."

Despite the increased privacy enforcement, Joseph Kvedar (left), director of Partners HealthCare's Center for Connected Health, said he thinks there will be an uptick in consumer adoption of connected health.

"I believe that tracking all facets of individual health and wellness, remote monitoring for chronic disease management and mobile health devices and apps will increase exponentially in the year ahead," Kvedar told FierceHealthIT. "Physicians and healthcare providers will also increasingly 'prescribe' health tracking for their patients as a means to improve overall quality of life and treatment outcomes, creating accountability for patients."

Several healthcare organizations have been advocating that Stage 3 of the Meaningful Use program include the "full panoply" of patient health data, including PGHD from remote monitoring systems. In addition, last month, the Health IT Policy Committee also reaffirmed that its objective--"patients [should] have the ability to electronically submit patient-generated health information"--should be part of Meaningful Use Stage 3, publishing a report from a technical expert panel convened at the request of the Office of the National Coordinator.