Amid the usual swirl of the HIMSS Conference, the false-alarm rumor Wednesday morning that Farzad Mostashari, M.D., the national coordinator for health IT, was set to release the proposed rule for Stage 2 of meaningful use, caused confusion and at least mild panic among many. As it turned out (see “BREAKING: Mostashari Highlights Stage 2 Meaningful Use Requirements”), Dr. Mostshari offered his audience the broad outlines of Stage 2 this morning, without formally releasing the rule. It was in some ways a typical HIMSS Conference day, I suppose!
In any case, even apart from that near-event, what was clear as never before is how profoundly the meaningful use process has impacted everyone in healthcare IT—providers, vendors, industry observers—and how deeply enmeshed the industry now is in the MU process. This is natural and indeed, it would remarkable were it not the case. But as I met with vendors, consultants, and healthcare IT leaders from patient care organizations today, it was underscored once again for me how fundamentally the MU process will continue to impact all the other processes in healthcare IT going forward for the next several years.
Still, all that having been said, one of the best quotes this morning was from Lisa Khorey, the vice president for enterprise systems and data management at the 20-hospital University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) health system. Khorey is an exceptionally thoughtful and strategic healthcare IT leader, and it’s clear that, with people like her at the helm, such pioneering patient care organizations as UPMC will always weather whatever storms come along in our industry, and not only survive, but thrive, in the emerging operating environment.
Khorey said she finds some of the ongoing sense of surprise among some provider leaders to be surprising in itself. “It’s not as though any of this is requiring us to do things we shouldn’t already be doing anyway,” she noted. In fact, she said, meaningful use is, logically and legitimately, pushing forward processes that absolutely need to take place anyway, around clinician documentation, patient engagement, health information exchange, and outcomes and analytics. And she reinforced that sentiment in responding to a question I had for her regarding the shared savings program for accountable care under the healthcare reform-based Medicare program.
Whether or not UPMC ends up participating in the formal Medicare ACO program, Khorey said, obviously, they’re going to pursue the concept of accountable care, which in fact, they’ve already been doing for several years anyway. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that they have their own affiliated health plan. But whether or not they participate in the Medicare shared savings program, it’s clear to her that this is the way that care delivery and reimbursement are moving, just as the meaningful use process is compelling providers forward on a path that is both logical and very much worth pursuing in healthcare.
So even as we all await the actual release of the Stage 2 proposed rule, it’s quite evident, as Lisa Khorey emphasized, that the direction of healthcare overall and of healthcare IT is very clear already. In other words, no one should be surprised when the final rule comes out, because its outlines have already long been telegraphed.