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Reflections on the HCI Executive Summit: Are We at an Inflection Point Now in Healthcare IT?

May 28, 2013
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Discussions that took place at the HCI Executive Summit earlier this month reflected intense interest in moving forward on population health and analytics

Attendees at the third annual Healthcare Informatics Executive Summit, held May 15-17 in San Francisco, participated in a number of important discussions, as roundtable discussion-based sessions and lecture-based sessions all turned to the opportunities and challenges facing healthcare IT leaders around healthcare reform, population health, analytics, and related topics.

It was highly gratifying for our editorial team at Healthcare Informatics to receive generous comments from attendees regarding the high level of quality of the discussions that took place; the whole emphasis, as we had planned it, was on creating precisely the types of discussions that did end up taking place, and that had taken place in the two previous years in which we presented the Executive Summit: in-depth, strongly focused on mutual sharing, enlightening. And among the numerous excellent discussions that emerged were ones around HIE standards and interoperability, population health management through EHR-embedded data mining, and the engagement of physicians in community-wide management of care transitions.

And very important points were made, and shared, among participants and presenters alike, in those and other areas. For example, during the session “The Journey to the New Healthcare,” a lively discussion ensued over some of the challenges around truly moving health information exchange forward. At one point, Simon Jones, director of accountable care organizational information technology and program strategy at the San Francisco-based Blue Shield of California, made the important point that truly moving the entire healthcare system forward on health information exchange will require federal government guidance and some level of federal management or control. Following up on that statement, Russ Branzell, the CEO of CHIME (the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based College of Healthcare Information Management Executives), made the memorable comment that, “I’m definitely not a big-government kind of guy. But when it comes to putting standards in place that will really make HIE work on a national level, you really kind of need the federal government to step in here.”

Meanwhile, the main presenters at the session titled “Community-Wide Population Health Management in New Orleans” responded to very thoughtful questions from their audience. What Anjum Khurshid, M.D., Ph.D., and Eboni Price-Haywood, M.D., of the Louisiana Public Health Institute and Crescent City Beacon Community (Dr. Khurshid) and the Tulane Community Health Centers (Dr. Price-Haywood) and their colleagues, have been creating, is indeed a community-wide initiative that is transforming the management of care transitions in New Orleans. Several excellent questions from attendees centered around issues such as creating a community-wide quorum for action, engaging physicians, and building consensus to spur EHR and clinical IS adoption. Both Dr. Khurshid and Dr. Price-Haywood were refreshingly candid about the challenges of building community-wide population health initiatives over the long term. Both openly acknowledged that, as far as they’ve come so far, there remained so much more to do in order to sustain any significant population health management initiative over time.

And, at the session titled “Improving Care Transitions in Real Time with Predictive Analytics,” leaders from the Minneapolis-based Allina Health offered their audience a wonderfully granular presentation on the groundbreaking work they put into creating Allina’s Patient Census Dashboard initiative, which is helping clinicians there proactively assess the risk of hospital readmissions even as patients are first hospitalized. The presenters—Susan Heichert, B.S.N., Allina’s senior vice president and CIO; Karen Tomes, R.N., the health system’s vice president for care management and the patient experience; and Jason Haupt, Ph.D., a senior statistician at the organization—gave attendees not only truly granular information on some of the mechanics of what they’ve been doing, but also the broad philosophy and strategy that are animating their admirable work—a level of sharing that was strongly appreciated by session attendees, and that triggered numerous excellent questions.

In all of this, there was a wonderful sense of true sharing at the Summit, and that sharing was reflected in numerous very gratifying comments I received about the level of discussion during our event. What’s more, I would venture that it seems we in healthcare IT are at a very important inflection point right now, as the true pioneers—groups of people like those at Allina Health, in New Orleans, and at the Premier health alliance—move forward with their groundbreaking initiatives, and are able to share their learnings with others.

Most encouragingly, the industry as at the point right now, I believe, when the conversations between the tip-of-the-spear pioneers and those in organizations just behind that level of advancement, are becoming very rich, very fruitful. And that’s because the learnings of the first wave are digestible now by a larger cohort of leaders in organizations beginning to catch up with that first wave.

And it is in forums like those of our Executive Summit, I believe, that discussions will continue to take place that will indeed move our healthcare system forward at this crucial point in the forward evolution of U.S. healthcare.