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The Best of the Best: HCI’s Top 10 Health IT Stories of 2015

December 29, 2015
by the Editors of HCI
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Not surprisingly, it was another big year in the world of health IT, mixed with positive developments and unsettling trends. Last week, HCI Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland looked at the seven significant things we learned this year, and social media manager Megan Combs parsed through the analytics and found the top 15 articles, news stories and blogs from 2015 on Twitter (@HCInformatics).

Today, upon review and collaboration among Healthcare Informatics’ editorial team, we give you what we thought were the 10 biggest stories from the year that was. While it’s extremely difficult to rank these significant developments in importance since they all struck the industry in an impactful way, our team gave it a shot. Here’s the list, in order of importance, as decided internally:  

1. Congress Passes SGR Repeal Legislation, Ushers in New Era in MD Value-Based Payment: On April 14, the U.S. Senate passed legislation ending the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula whose problematic history has plagued Medicare physician payment issues for over a decade, as it approved the Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). The bill was signed into law by President Obama two days later. The legislation will replace physicians’ mandatory participation in the Value-Based Payment Program under Medicare (for all physicians participating in Medicare) with a new Merit-based Incentive Payment System, or “MIPS,” to be applied to payments beginning Jan. 1, 2019. As Healthcare Informatics’ analysis of the legislation noted, it targets four key areas: quality, resource use, clinical practice improvement (including care coordination and improvement activities), and the meaningful use of electronic health record (EHR) technology.

2. Population Health Continued Developments:  There isn’t one single story that can sum up the population health era that the industry is quickly heading into, but the topic has generated enough buzz to land on the cover of two HCI magazine issues this year—the May/June issue and the September/October one. In the first cover story, Mark Hagland takes a deep dive in the population health journey ahead; in the more recent cover piece, Hagland looks at how medical group leaders have been moving forward on all the challenges inherent in population health initiatives.

3. CMS Releases Final Meaningful Use Program Rules: After weeks of speculation about when the meaningful use Stage 2 modifications and Stage 3 final rules would be published, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released both rules together in a 752-page document on Oct. 6. Most health IT leaders responded to the rules with cautious optimism, and many further believed that the required start date of 2018 for Stage 3 is too soon. As the industry has had more time to digest the rulings, many have indeed called for an extended Stage 3 timeframe. Stakeholder comments regarding the Stage 3 final rule were due to CMS on Dec. 15.

4. ICD-10 Two Months In: For Providers, a Transition that Finally Came (and Went): For many patient care organizations nationwide, there was much concern leading up to the ICD-10 implementation deadline of Oct. 1, 2015. Indeed, since CMS delayed the deadline for the transition to the new coding set three times previously, providers were justly unsure if all of their preparation and resources put into the conversion would go for naught once again. Nonetheless, the implementation deadline was not moved and the industry made it through Oct. 1 sans disaster.

5. Cerner/Leidos-Led Team Wins DoD EHR Contract: In July, it was announced that the winner of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) massive Department of Defense Healthcare Management Systems Modernization (DHMSM) EHR contract was a team headed by the Kansas-City based EHR vendor Cerner Corp, surprising many industry analysts and experts who were predicting that the Epic team would win the bid. The new contract will cover more than 9.5 million Defense Department beneficiaries; the cost over 18 years will approximately be in the $9 million to $11 million range.