Verma and Azar speak, but what does it all mean? It’s been a long four days in Las Vegas, and the amount of information consumed is likely not all processable since there’s so much of it. But that’s what we, the media, are here for! The biggest buzz of the conference was clearly CMS Administrator Seema Verma’s opening keynote, in which she announced the launch of two patient empowerment initiatives, but even beyond that, she also laid out the plan for federal health IT officials going forward.
While Verma’s keynote was a lot to take in, our Mark Hagland bravely dove into the significance behind it, as thousands of HIMSS attendees likely had the same question that Hagland posed in his commentary: What does this really mean?
Hagland, who combined HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s comments—at a sperate conference in D.C. —in with Verma’s for his analysis, wrote that some of their remarks are “mom and apple pie” notions—meaning that on one hand, healthcare consumers could drive quality and cost-effectiveness by being more empowered and making more informed choices; but on the other hand, wrote Hagland, “the ideas of market-driven change and federal government-compelled healthcare industry transformation” are “arguably contradictory, or at least, strongly contrasting, concepts.”
So the question becomes, stated Hagland, “Can the right combination of federal government interventions force the U.S. healthcare system to respond in a ‘market-driven’ way? In a ‘consumer-driven’ way?” And another part of all this, as Hagland smartly brought up, is that if consumers don’t have health insurance, they essentially have no ability whatsoever to be “empowered.” As Hagland’s commentary said, “This is an administration whose stated goal remains to repeal the Affordable Care Act, still the only vehicle designed at the federal level to broadly expand health insurance coverage in this country.”
All of these dynamics are quite fascinating and it was more than worthwhile for the 43,000+ HIMSS attendees to get a sense of what message the administration was trying to portray. But of course, the true impact of these comments will not be felt, either way, for months, or even years, down the road. Make sure to read Hagland’s full commentary here.
Allscripts CEO touts machine learning, need for interoperability: In an exclusive interview with Heather Landi, Allscripts CEO Paul Black talked about the company’s launch of a mobile, cloud-based EHR solution that uses machine learning to reduce time for clinical documentation. The solution is designed to work like an app instead of traditional software, the company said. It aims to streamline workflow and integrate clinicians’ treatment patterns, and then provides reminders of preferences to facilitate faster documentation and decision making. Black, speaking of the product, told Landi, “We felt that it was time for a brand new EMR to be built where the EMR would actually work for the physician, versus the physician having to work with the EMR. From an end-user design standpoint, we felt that this could be disruptive.”
Black also made noteworthy comments in the story about how Epic-to-Epic data exchange isn’t quite good enough. “Epic has 15 percent of the marketplace, globally, therefore, 85 percent can’t connect to that [network]. You have to be able to pull information out and harmonize [it]. There is a workflow component that harmonizes the information and that’s a piece of the interoperability discussion. Let’s talk about the harmonization of that data,” Black said.
Fleming opens up: We’ve mentioned a few times how federal health officials have been outspoken this week on the need to reduce provider burden, and you can read all about that right here in a one-on-one interview Healthcare Informatics had with John Fleming, M.D., deputy assistant secretary for health technology reform at ONC. But in that discussion, Fleming also spoke honestly about how patients and providers need to be a team, rather than patients putting all their faith in their doctors making the right decision, 100 percent of the time.
Fleming said that this actually makes him uncomfortable as a physician, which to some, might be surprising to hear. He specifically said that he would feel disappointed if he let the patient down by making a mistake—something that is certainly possible, since doctors are human, after all. He added, “It occurred to me that I can be a much more important factor in patients’ lives by educating them about their disease process and making them more literate in healthcare knowledge. And if I do that, now I have a partner by my side—and we succeed and fail together.”
Heard at HIMSS: In an informative and influential session on how HIEs could assist in crisis, leaders of three such organizations—Greater Houston Healthconnect, HEALTHeLINK, and Great Lakes Health Connect—shared separate stories on how health information exchanges aided in their respective regional disasters. Here’s how HEALTHeLINK in Western New York was able to do its part:
.@HEALTHeLINK: 8 counties in Western NY, 1 query every 10 seconds. In April 2017, @ECMCBuffalo had ransomware attack requiring shutdown of their EHR, but HIE saved the day & providers could still access their data! #HIMSS18 #EmpowerHIT #HITsecurity pic.twitter.com/1XjDlhp2pO
— Zach Jarou, MD (@zachjarou) March 8, 2018
Conference tidbits on the final day: Total attendee registration as of Thursday morning was 43,857 (for comparison, the third full conference day of HIMSS17 had 42,046 registered attendees). HIMSS also released its annual leadership survey, which polled 224 providers and found that patient safety, clinical informatics, data analytics, and improving quality outcomes remain top of mind among hospital-based healthcare IT leaders, though cybersecurity and data privacy and security issues have risen in terms of importance, compared with last year. Read Mark Hagland’s report on the survey here.