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HIMSS18 Day 2 Roundup: CMS Makes a Splash

March 6, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal
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News and notes from day two of HIMSS18

Verma keynote provides the buzz: As we have been hinting here at Healthcare Informatics, HIMSS18 will be much heavier on the policy front than HIMSS17 was. On Tuesday morning, CMS (the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) Administrator Seema Verma confirmed our speculation by dropping a major policy announcement in the morning’s opening keynote: the launch of a new initiative called “MyHealthEData,” aimed at revolutionizing the relationship of U.S. healthcare consumers to their patient data.

What is the significance of this initiative? According to a CMS news release, “MyHealthEData will help to break down the barriers that prevent patients from having electronic access and true control of their own health records from the device or application of their choice. Patients will be able to choose the provider that best meets their needs and then give that provider secure access to their data, leading to greater competition and reducing costs.”

At the same time, Verma, who was introduced by Jared Kushner, who is in his role as the lead in the White House’s Office of American Innovation, also announced the launch of Medicare’s Blue Button 2.0—a new and secure way for Medicare beneficiaries to access and share their personal health data in a universal digital format, according to CMS. An example of Blue Button 2.0 being used in action would be a patient accessing and sharing his or her health data, including prior prescriptions and treatments, with a new doctor. Verma noted that while the Blue Button initiative has been around for years, the data has been in raw form, such as a PDF or Excel document, without useful context.

Verma talked more about patient-centered healthcare, recalling one anecdote in which a doctor she recently spoke with had twins, and it took him, a doctor, six months, to access his children’s records. Verma also had strong words about the need for better privacy and security of patient data, as well as attesting that the meaningful use program is undergoing a “complete overhaul.” The CMS Administrator additionally said the government will not tolerate data blocking.  Read Mark Hagland’s full report on Verma’s keynote here.

Early HIMSS numbers are in: 42,608 attendees versus 40,453 at this time last year

Heard at HIMSS: A Twitter thread among various industry folks on Tuesday included a debate on if the Trump administration’s dialogue on healthcare transformation is "cheap" or not. Some highlights for you to be the judge:

ONC tidbits: The Office of the National Coordinator’s (ONC’s) full team was present for the annual ONC Town Hall at HIMSS, including National Coordinator Donald Rucker, M.D. The federal health IT agency spent most of the hour-long session by listening and responding to questions from attendees. Some of the most interesting nuggets heard from yours truly:

---Rucker on data liquidity: “We have an extraordinary opportunity to use modern computing power to change the way healthcare is delivered. Amazon can use machine learning to figure out which [product] we should buy, that we don’t even need, but we don’t have any access to data to figure out if the treatment we’re being offered is working well for other folks.

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