Hype and hope have their place in health IT, too


It will be interesting to see what, if anything, comes out of a gathering last week in Washington, D.C., which focused on IT use for transitioning patients from the hospital to the home. The event was hosted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, among others, and played out like a big pep rally/mini conference, with robust breakout sessions and compelling sound bites, none more motivational than Department of Health and Human Services Chief Technology Officer Todd Park's call for attendees to "punch a freakin' hole" in a metaphorical wall representing the barriers to health IT.

While usually I find myself skeptical of such rah-rah meetings, this one had a different feel to it. Even though most of the discussions focused on hypothetical solutions to problems, everyone in attendance seemed enthusiastic and driven in their conversations. Most of the ideas floating around were abstract, but the intent to actualize them appeared genuine.

National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari, speaking with FierceHealthIT afterward, said that such meetings of the minds were good places to start for instigating the change he and his organization are striving for. Using an intriguing cloud-based, patient controlled health plan idea discussed in one of the sessions as an example, Mostashari pointed to the collaborative efforts of all the different parties involved--payers, providers, vendors and venture capitalists--to bring such a conversation to life.

"There seemed to be a lot of people in the room who felt [the patient-controlled prototype] was the right way, from a clinical and from a data point of view, to solve a lot of the complexities [of the current transition system]," Mostashari said. Ultimately, such ideas have to start somewhere, he said, and a forum encouraging innovation seems as good a place as any to get moving.

While Mostashari served as somewhat of a hype man for the day's events, he explained to me later that the ONC's role, aside from being the government entity pushing for health IT use legislatively, is simply to get people talking about such changes.

"It's got to be somebody's job [to propel change]," Mostashari said. "It's got to become ingrained in our organizations and institutions that improvement is one of the core things we do, as opposed to just ‘patient clocks in; patient clocks out; that's my job.' "

Good ideas usually come from people with hopeful and tenacious attitudes. To that end, enthusiasm and hype--used correctly--also should be seen as vital tools in the health IT process. While they may not make up the eventual meat and bones of projects and initiatives, they can help to get such efforts to the table for discussion. - Dan (@FierceHealthIT)

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