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My New Year’s Resolution for Health IT

January 2, 2014
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I’ve never been a big proponent of New Year’s resolutions. Whereas I can get behind and appreciate the idea of setting goals and sticking to them, I often feel as if too many people decide that a simple flip of the calendar will change their lives. While I don’t trust that something so arbitrary will change action, I do believe that the beautiful thing about life is that at any moment, you can choose to redefine yourself and actually be a better person than you were seconds before.

Applied to health IT, I think that in 2014, the industry has a great opportunity to redefine itself and be better than it was just moments before. How, you ask? The answer lies in finding the joy and passion in what makes this such an exciting and fascinating field. Don’t get me wrong—I think there are a number of great undertakings right now in health IT that will continue to grow and improve. But I think in 2013, the industry got away from itself a little bit, and some healthcare IT executives may have lost a bit of perspective on what got them there in the first place.

 Throughout a good part of 2013 in health IT, there was far too much doom and gloom. The most recent conference I attended was MGMA (Medical Group Management Association) last October in San Diego, and the hope and overall positive vibes that were sweeping the industry earlier in the year just weren’t evident in California, when the buzz seemed to center around the federal government shutdown (which was occurring at the time), the lack of readiness for ICD-10, and the desperate hope for a meaningful use Stage 2 extension. I even blogged about something eye-opening I heard at the conference regarding smaller hospitals having no plan on how to prepare for some of these federal mandates.

And it’s the pressure of federal mandates that seems to be the biggest reason why the joy seems to have dissipated among many in the industry. But my hope is that 2014 will be a turning point for healthcare IT, as a large number of regulatory mandates mature—mainly ICD-10, meaningful use Stage 2, HIPAA Omnibus Rule, and Affordable Care Act requirements.

As it turned out, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) did not give eligible professionals and eligible hospitals a delay or extension for Stage 2 that would provide relief for the 2014 penalties. So for those healthcare organizations that were struggling with Stage 2 of meaningful use, this did little to solve their problems. The government also did not give any kind of added delay on the transition to ICD-10 in 2013, which continued to cause worry, as a recent survey from the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI) reveals that despite the impending Oct. 1, 2014 deadline to transition to the ICD-10 code-set, the healthcare industry isn’t ready.

And I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I thought of passion and joy in health IT, the first person who came to mind was Farzad Mostashari, M.D., then-chief of the Office of the National coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). Mostashari, of course, has since stepped down as ONC head, but he will be remembered for his robust enthusiasm for the future of health IT, verbalizing messages such as this one—which made HCI Contributing Editor David Rath’s top 10 health IT quotes of the year— “Our longer term vision is that every healthcare interaction benefits from all the world’s knowledge. Every encounter that generates knowledge should add to the world’s knowledge. If we aren’t accomplishing that in the next seven years, we won’t have met the challenges in time.”

Perhaps 2014 will be a year when industry leaders can refocus on the core of what Mostashari was promoting, as the completion of many of these federal requirements will allow organizational leaders to focus on the progress that many healthcare systems are making in terms of innovation. A really neat example of this is Google Glass in emergency department settings, which has a chance to be a game-changer in 2014 and beyond. Other examples include the forward drive on population health and analytics (was 2013 the turning point?) and the continued embracement of mobility in healthcare. Don’t forget, of course, the goal of putting the patient at the center of everything, with the hope that 2014 is the year when every patient care organization implements a HIT-based plan to support patient engagement.

Undoubtedly, there are plenty of good things to look forward to in the coming year. In the coming months at HCI alone, we will cover the industry’s top tech trends as well as recognize the most innovative healthcare leadership teams who have effectively employed information technology to make a difference in their organizations and in the industry at large.