Special Edition: News roundup from an upbeat and social HIMSS 2012

No, you're not seeing double. We're publishing two issues of FierceHealthIT today, including this special edition that highlights some of the news, interviews, and commentary from the 2012 Health Information and Management Systems Society conference in Las Vegas last week--plus new stories from the show published for the first time today.

We hope you enjoy and find value in this special edition of FierceHealthIT--we know that your inboxes are mighty stressed these days. For those of you who like your news served up in one dish, here's a roundup of the highlights from last week's show. 

In general, the mood at the conference was upbeat, social and optimistic. From new technologies to social media to mobile health apps to EHRs for iPads to natural language processing, the health IT space clearly is booming.

The government news

Government regulations--from the release of the Stage 2 Meaningful Use proposed rule to the ICD-10 coding change-up--ruled the day (or, rather, the week).

In fact, the buzz started about a week before the conference, when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced it might delay the ICD-10 deadline. On Feb. 16--just days before the event, it said it would delay the deadline for "certain entities." Some predicted ICD-10 sessions and events would be deserted. In fact, the opposite seemed true--the hint at a reprieve meant all of those who were behind now had a chance to catch up. And they seemed ready to do so.

The room was full at a FierceHealthIT breakfast event on ICD-10; the audience clearly engaged. The consensus among the experts: CIOs should stay the course on ICD-10.

The biggest government news came mid-week when CMS released long-awaited details about Meaningful Use Stage 2 criteria. (There was so much information about the proposed rule, in fact, that we've included in a separate story on it in this issue.)

The other hot topics

ICD-10 and Meaningful Use dominated but they were not they only topics up for discussion.

Data mining and analysis, clinical decision support, the automation of chronic disease management, patient engagement, accountable care organizations and care coordination across communities were also hot topics at the show, noted Tracey Mayberry, a partner in the consulting firm CSC. But he said providers' desire to achieve Meaningful Use is not driving the technology-related goals of healthcare organizations.

Eric Hartz, the chief medical information officer Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems in Bangor talked about the organization's CPOE implementation. It didn't always go smoothly but there was an upside for the audience--attendees got plenty of advice about how to learn from EMHS' missteps. 

Janet Corrigan, president and CEO of the National Quality Forum, said in a well-attended session that quality measures must be standardized and aligned across public and private accountability programs. "Otherwise, we run the risk of losing the focus of frontline providers," she said.    

The FierceHealthIT interviews

One of the best things about the HIMSS conference is connecting with people. Despite its massive size there still are a surprising number of opportunities to meet and talk to people one-on-one. This year the FierceHealthIT team conducted a number of exclusive interviews with healthcare providers, payers, industry consultants and tech company execs. 

WellPoint's Elizabeth Bigham, vice president of care management and Ashok Chennuru, director of technology, told us how a team of experts--from oncologists to computer techs--are teaching IBM's Watson to provide clinical decision support and talked frankly about potential business models post-pilot--including who will ultimately pay for the technology.

Harry Greenspun, M.D., senior advisor for healthcare transformation and technology with the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, talked about the difference between small and large practices when it comes to engaging in Meaningful Use, ICD-10 and healthcare reform. He was surprised to learn which group is more on top of these important health IT initiatives--and you might be, too.

Roger Neal, CIO of 145-bed Duncan (Okla.) Regional Hospital, has a message for CMS: Make up your mind, already. Neal talked about the challenges of "jockeying resources" to keep up with major health IT initiatives--and the government's mercurial shifting of deadlines and rules.

Evan Steele, CEO of electronic health record vendor SRSsoft, said the uncertainty surrounding healthcare IT regulations is a big deterrent from what he deems the most important aspect of his business--customer service. "It used to be you just had to focus on what the doctors needed," Steele said. "Now there's all this noise ... that you've got to think about, and how that is going to affect your business."

Doug Fridsma, Director of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's Office of Standards & Interoperability, told FierceHealthIT one-size does not fit all when it comes to healthcare communications. Sooner than one might think, he said, people will be using web services, Direct, and CONNECT in communications efforts, in addition to tools that have yet to be created.

The social media buzz

The conference was social in a virtual way--this year social media and mHealth played a bigger role than ever.

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone gave the conference's first keynote address. Gregg Masters, a healthcare social media advocate and consultant talked to conference-goers about creating a "digital footprint." And Seattle-based pediatrician Wendy Sue Swanson urged the audience to use sites like Twitter and YouTube to communicate with patients. 

Be sure to check out the rest of this special edition of FierceHealthIT. We'd love to know what you think and to hear your thoughts on this year's conference.