Today's health IT accomplishments are yesterday's challenges

It is 2012--time to look forward to a year of deadlines, determination, and perhaps defiance, as we strive to reach that goal of nationwide interoperable electronic health records.  

What's my outlook for the year ahead? 

Hospitals and medical practices accomplished much in 2011, but they still must do more to bring health information technology to 21st century standards to improve the safety and quality of patient care.  

ICD-10 and HIPAA 5010: Healthcare providers and payers have until Oct. 1, 2013, to transition to this new medical coding system. This transition requires ongoing attention to implement and test the coding applications, information that HIMSS and some 30 industry organizations focus on in the ICD-10 PlayBook.  For all HIPAA-related 5010 transactions, Jan. 1, 2012, was the deadline with providers given until March 30, 2012, before the office of E-Health Standards and Services (OESS) will enforce compliance. These deadlines are real. Start now and begin this transitional process because the work involved can't be minimized.  

Stage 2 Meaningful Use: The time to meet Stage 1 Meaningful Use has been extended another year to the end of 2012. And we expect the initial guidelines for meeting Stage 2 Meaningful Use to be released in February with implementation in 2013.

We are making good progress along this path to meaningful use, especially when looking at our starting point with the announcement of meaningful use in 2009.

The EMRAM also provides a valuable historical perspective because we know Stage 4 hospitals are best positioned to meet Stage 1 of Meaningful Use.

  • In just five years, from 2006 to the present time, hospitals achieving Stage 4 or higher totaled 3.7 percent of hospitals, or 157 of 4,237 hospitals tracked by the organization.
  • Today, this number totals 25.8 percent, or 1,367 hospitals of the 5,299 tracked.  

In addition, data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services show continued growth as well in the number of eligible hospitals moving toward or meeting Stage 1 of meaningful use. As of Nov. 30, 2011, CMS reported 2,634 eligible hospitals have registered for Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs; 1,213 hospitals (411/Medicare and 802/Medicaid) have received payment for meeting Stage 1 of meaningful use, as of this same date.

Mobile Health: Mobile health is a primary focus for HIMSS with the launch of our mHIMSS initiative in 2011. Among physicians, the adoption momentum has begun as well because:

  • 64 percent of physicians own a smart phone;
  • 30 percent own an iPad with another 28 percent ready to buy one in the next six months;
  • 33 percent use the smart phone to input patient data from the EHR. 

We know as well healthcare providers and clinicians face a disparate mix of health IT software and hardware solutions, while manufacturers of these products struggle to know exactly what providers want and need for mobile health applications.  

mHIMSS will help navigate this path with our focus on technology, work flow and data exchange. Visit the mHIMSS website and see the numerous sessions at HIMSS12 to learn more about this initiative.    

Clinical and Business Analytics: While many hospitals and physician practices are focused on reaching Stage 1 of Meaningful Use, others use the electronic health records with measureable improvements in patient care and return-on-investment, as evidenced by our HIMSS Davies Award winners and HIMSS Analytics Stage 7 and Stage 6 hospitals.  

As many CIOs have told me, "the EHR journey has just begun," with advanced health IT systems in place. Using their health IT systems, hospitals and physician practices can access their data to identify trends in managing chronic disease patients, contagious diseases and other valuable data that can help support public and community health efforts as well. HIMSS Analytics will have more to share on clinical and business analytics in the year ahead. 

The 2012 Elections: With just 11 months until the 2012 Presidential election, I don't predict much change related to health IT support with any of the leading candidates (leading, as of this writing).

Both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney have supported the adoption of health IT throughout, and following, their respective careers as legislators. President Obama acted on his belief with the passage of ARRA that included the HITECH provision and the mandate for hospitals and physicians to become meaningful users of digital technology. We are well down this path, one that by the end of 2015 should present a new era of quality patient care with the best use of health IT.

Let me know your thoughts on health IT in 2012...Best wishes to you in this New Year.

HIMSS is an organization leading industry discussions on EHR, interoperability, and Meaningful Use in health IT. 

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