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Sorry, We Have No Clowns at This Carny--But Here's Why the National Health IT Week Blog Carnival Makes Sense

September 17, 2013
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Does it make sense to celebrate something like National Health IT Week? Yes, it actually does

I’m certain that the origin of commemorative “weeks” and “months”—“National Herring Week,” “National Foot Fungus Awareness Month”—is shrouded in the mists of history; but we all know that, among the very, very worthy “weeks” and “months” honoring first responders, nurses, etc., and urging awareness of a variety of diseases, causes, and concerns, there are some designated weeks and months that are either purely commercial, or pretty much frivolous.

Yet the whole reason that such commemorative and/or alerting initiatives came into being in the first place was to raise awareness of important people, things, causes, and ideas. So, one may safely ask: does the concept of “National Health IT Week” make sense? Setting aside my journalist’s skepticism, I will vote in the affirmative, with (hopefully) illuminative supporting arguments.

Co-sponsored by the Chicago-based Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), the Arlington, Va.-based Institute for e-Health Policy, and the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), National Health IT Week this year involves a wide range of activities related to healthcare IT policy and to healthcare industry trends, with officials from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), current and former members of the U.S. Congress, and industry leaders participating in various live events in Washington, D.C.

There have also, of course, been a lot of online activities taking place this year. One of them has been the “National Health IT Week Blog Carnival.” Well, OK, on the one hand, this carnival lacks clowns, balloons, trapeze artists, bearded ladies, and carnival barkers; on the other hand, what it does have is a whole bunch of very interesting blogs, including ones by Lygeia Ricciardi, director of the Office of Consumer eHealth at ONC; Carla Smith, executive vice president at HIMSS; and Ali Youssef, senior wireless solutions architect at Henry Ford Health System, among others.

Among the topics the bloggers participating in the “Carnival” have tackled have included these: “How Do You Measure the Value of Health IT?” “Technology That Works for Physicians vs. Against Them”; and “Is It Time For a Dedicated mHealth Manager, and Team?”

These topics are all very much work reading blogs about: they are substantive, thought-provoking, and important. And it was very gratifying that my Q&A exchange with Brian Parris of Dodge Communications on “The Impact of Population Health on the HIT Space,” was included in this august group of writings.

As I told Brian, in response to his question about what we will be covering in the next several months to a year at Healthcare Informatics, “If there were a single term that might encompass everything that HCI will be covering in the next several months, it would be ‘healthcare reform,’ defined very broadly.” I added that I was using the term in the broadest possible sense, and referring not only to elements of the Affordable Care Act that are impacting our readers and their organizations, “but also every kind of private-market initiative around population health, patient-centered medical homes, accountable care organization development, etc., as well as the entirety of the meaningful use process under the HITECH Act, the transition to the ICD-10 coding system, and mandates such as the enhanced HIPAA ‘final rule’ patient privacy requirements, and compliance with Medicare ‘RAC’ audits, etc.”

Put all together, all the various phenomena under that very large umbrella, I’ve been referring to in the past year or two as simply “the new healthcare.” And it’s great to be able to share with other participants in this “carnival” of blogging, my perspectives on where things are headed, while reading their very interesting writings as well.

In her piece linked to the same landing page, Lygeia Riccardi writes that, “With more than half of Americans using smart phones today, and an abundance of popular health apps and tools such as digital pedometers, glucose monitors, and sleep sensors, consumers are becoming an undeniable part of the equation for better health and healthcare through health information technology.” Thus, as she points out, what she and her colleagues are doing in advancing the Blue Button program speaks not only to clinician-to-clinician connectivity, but also to consumer engagement in the new healthcare. Absolutely.

So in the end, having the opportunity to participate in a thoughtful virtual gathering of national healthcare IT leaders has really been a very interesting and worthwhile process for me. I’m thankful to Brian Parrish of Dodge Communications for alerting me to the opportunity recently, and for interviewing me (and that’s always an interesting turning of the tables, of course—interviewing a journalist!), and submitting our Q&A to the organizers of the National Health IT Week.