HIMSS Federal & Stage Public Policy Update

August 20, 2015
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Speaker:  Jeffrey R. Coughlin, MPP
Senior Director, Federal & State Affairs
HIMSS North America

Speaker:  Jeffrey R. Coughlin, MPP
Senior Director, Federal & State Affairs
HIMSS North America

This luncheon appropriately took place in the relatively new and beautiful Alder Commons Auditorium on the University of Washington Campus. Jeff briefed me (I cannot speak for others in the room) on Meaningful Use current events (what CMS expected upon inception and the reality of now) and the new incentives to push interoperability. I graduated from UW with a degree in Clinical Informatics in 2011 when CMS was just rolling out EHR incentive program, now 4 years later it is an interesting perspective, the positivity outlook I once saw is fading. In 2011 CMS estimated by 2019 that 100% hospitals and 70% professionals would be utilizing EHRs. As of June 2015 537k eligible professionals and 48 hospitals registered for Medicaid/Medicare incentives; a whopping 31 billion incentives were paid out. With all that money paid, it raised question of what was actually bought with those dollars with only 48 hospitals registered. I am sure Congress and the House will try very hard to find this out exactly!

I know that the carrot and stick approach to EHR incentive payments are producing results in regards to getting eligible professionals and hospitals to get on board with Meaningful Use (MU), I am more drawn to the value of care improvement I can see myself in the works; interoperability. Jeff talked about this subject as well with more interest and I sat up in my chair. After the slides he presented on numbers/facts interlaced with disappointment that CMS is no doubt feeling over MU and EP/Hospitals are actually frustrated by, the subject matter of interoperability I was very happy to see. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) defines interoperability “… as the ability of systems to exchange and use electronic health information from other systems without special effort on the part of the user.” I believe that EHRs are worthless without the ability to follow patients throughout their lives; we are no longer born, live and die in the same town, even less so go to the same doctor, hospital or clinic our entire lives. Therefore it is more important than ever for the 2015 Interoperability Standards Advisory to “…coordinate the identification, assessment, and determination of the best available interoperability standards and implementation specifications for industry use toward specific health care purposes.” Please check out this wonderful graphic that very nicely lays things out.

Jeff’s closing remarks were centered around how important it is for us to advocate the role Health Information Technology has on creating a healthcare system based upon patient centered care and with National Health IT week coming up October 5-9 what better time to knock on your senators door. Also the HIMSS policy summit is October 7-8 and you can sign up for early bird registration until Sept. 10th.