Health IT Roundup—Leading healthcare groups want more time on interoperability rules

Telehealth consultation
Telehealth use grew 53 percent from 2016 to 2017, outpacing any other venue of care, a recent study finds. (Getty/AndreyPopov)

Leading healthcare organizations ask CMS, ONC for extension on rule comment periods

Echoing calls from groups such as the Electronic Health Record Association, about 20 healthcare and health IT organizations are calling on federal healthcare policy leaders to grant a 30-day extension on the comment period for recent interoperability rules.

In a letter to National Coordinator Donald Rucker, M.D., head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, the organizations noted that the proposed rules are “comprehensive, detailed and intertwined.” The comment period deadline for CMS and ONC interoperability rules is currently May 3.

The rules contain provisions with “far-reaching implications for virtually all stakeholders” in the healthcare system, with a wide range of “complex, technical, legal and administrative issues included in the rules,” the groups wrote.

In the letter, signed by the American Medical Association, the Federation of American Hospitals, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, Premier healthcare alliance, the Medical Group Management Association, the American Medical Group Association and the Children’s Hospital Association, among others, the groups also asked for adjustments to the implementation timelines proposed in the rules. (Letter)

Growth in telehealth visits outpaces other venues of care: study

Telehealth use grew 53% from 2016 to 2017, outpacing any other venue of care, according to Fair Health’s FH Healthcare Indicators white paper.

FAIR Health studied utilization rates based on its database of more than 28 billion privately billed healthcare claim records. From 2016 to 2017, private insurance claim lines for services rendered via telehealth as a percentage of all medical claim lines grew 53% nationally, while the national usage of urgent care centers increased 14%, usage of retail clinics increased 7% and usage of ambulatory surgery centers rose 6%. Usage of ERs actually decreased 2%.

Telehealth utilization in urban areas grew almost twice as fast (55%) in 2017 compared to rural areas (29%).

The top diagnostic categories associated with telehealth in 2017 were injury (such as contusions, open wounds), acute respiratory infections and digestive system issues, each of which constituted 13% of claims. General signs and symptoms (fever, headache) were the fourth most common diagnostic category in 2017. Mental health reasons, which had been the top telehealth diagnostic category in 2016, ranked fifth in 2017.  (White paper)

Two-thirds of healthcare providers "behind the curve" on digital health initiatives

Nearly two-thirds of healthcare providers rate themselves as being behind the curve on their digital health initiatives, citing clinician resistance and interoperability of legacy systems with digital and mobile technologies as the top barriers, according to a survey from Unisys Corporation.

For the survey, 220 IT executives at U.S. hospitals and health systems were asked to rank their organization based on how they are leveraging digital and mobile technologies to improve the patient experience, lower the cost of care delivery and improve efficiencies. Among the 64% rated as being behind the curve, 20% rated themselves as laggards. Only 11% of organizations were rated as early adopters.

Eighty-three percent of early adopter organizations have a comprehensive data governance plan in place, compared to only 16% of laggards.

IT executives cited clinicians’ resistance to adopting new solutions as a top barrier to advancing digital health initiatives as well as difficulties integrating legacy systems with new digital and mobile technologies. Availability of skilled IT staff (48%) and the identification and remediation of cybersecurity threats (45%) were also highly cited as challenges. (Survey)