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A Bold Endeavor: Five Predictions for Health IT in 2015

December 31, 2014
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One of the things I enjoy most about covering health IT is that you never know when breaking news might hit the industry; this field is as unpredictable as it is ever-changing, and that’s not something you see in every industry.

For instance, I’m a huge fan of the three major professional sports, (sorry, hockey fans), but even in that world there are predictable down times. In baseball, once the offseason activity cools in mid-December, there’s not much to cover until the next season starts. Same for basketball in the summer. And although pro football is perhaps the most year-round sport these days, even that has a downtime between the NFL Draft in May and the start of training camp in July.

Health IT is far more capricious than this, as even during the “slow” period of December, big news happens. Right before Christmas, for example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) abruptly announced that 89 new Medicare accountable care organizations (ACOs) will be joining the Medicare Shared Savings Program. It’s rare you will go any significant duration of time without some big story like this one—HCI Senior Editor Gabe Perna pretty much confirmed this last week with his “Looking Back at 2014” blog. And in his blog yesterday, Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland asserted that 2014 was another year of surprises for the industry.

So as you might imagine, predicting the future of health IT can certainly be a daunting task. This industry is filled with so many twists and turns that looking ahead more than a few weeks seems foolish. That being said, today, I’ll be that guy attempting to look into my crystal ball. Without further ado, here are five predictions for health IT 2015:

1. Meaningful use will go backwards before it goes forwards: Regarding the program’s state, here’s what we know: According to Jeff Smith, vice president of public policy at the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), with half of the nation’s eligible professionals (EPs) receiving penalties in 2015, concerns are mounting over whether MU is fundamentally flawed or whether the education gap is simply far greater than policymakers expected. In a recent CHIME Debrief, Smith wrote, “Regardless, such widespread failure will affect more advanced providers as they progress to Stage 2, and it portends years of industry-wide struggle with program participation.” If these tepid attestation rates continue, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stage 3 pushed back even further or perhaps shelved completely. In a recent HCI podcast, Jason Fortin, senior advisor at Impact Advisors, said that Stage 3 will happen, but supported the idea of it being focused solely on interoperability, as recommended by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s (ONC) JASON Task Force. We also know that provider organizations want more flexible reporting requirements, but CMS has not complied thus far. At this year’s CHIME Fall Forum, Marc Probst, vice president and CIO at the well-respected Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare said that “it’s time to declare MU victory and move on.” Honestly, there’s just so much uncertainty surrounding this program, it’s hard to predict anything positive with it at this point in time. 

2. ICD-10 will be delayed again: We have heard “no more delays” in regards to ICD-10 before from the federal government, only to promptly be hit with another delay. Call me negative, but I see this happening again before the the current Oct. 1, 2015 deadline. There seems to be some real behind-the-scenes stuff going on with this mandate, as we never really found out who exactly was behind the last delay this past year. What we do know is that many doctors hate ICD-10. Of course, in a few months, we will witness the annual debate over the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula for paying physicians, and that is when I see another delay possibly happening.

3. Wearable technology will take off: Something positive! A recent Juniper Research report found that worldwide, the number of people who use wearables is expected to triple by 2018. Consumers don’t like going to the doctor, and as we move to an era of value-based care rather than fee-for-service, physicians will be looking at ways to get patient data from outside the four walls of their office. Communication between a patient’s device and his or her doctor will soon be routine. Frankly, it’s a match made in heaven on paper. The wearables market is still in its infancy, but I expect it to hit new levels in 2015.