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Seven Significant Things We Learned in 2015

December 22, 2015
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The year 2015 has been a truly eventful, indeed tumultuous, year in healthcare and healthcare IT in the United States. What have we collectively learned in healthcare?

The year 2015 has been a truly eventful, indeed tumultuous, year in healthcare and healthcare IT in the United States. From the policy end of the spectrum of developments to the technology end, this was a year of constant, often jarring, change. And it would be impossible to chronicle in detail everything that healthcare leaders learned collectively in 2015, not to mention individually.

But, looking back at this year that has been, below are a few thoughts on seven things that were learned by many in U.S. healthcare in 2015.

#7: We learned that the ICD-10 transition would finally happen after all: and that the world would go on.

After multiple delays in the actual transition date, and constant Chicken Little-esque “sky is falling” warnings from the American Medical Association and others, on October 1, the mandated deadline for the transition to the new ICD-10 coding system (well, new to clinicians in the U.S.—countries like Canada and Australia have been operating with ICD-10 for decades already) finally actually happened. And the world did not collapse. Indeed, as Managing Editor Rajiv Leventhal found in interviews with leaders at patient care organizations, there has been little drama, and we’ve so far heard of no apocalyptic disasters.

As Rajiv noted in his December 8 report, “Despite all this perplexity and trepidation, the implementation deadline was not moved and the industry made it through Oct. 1 sans disaster. At the end of October, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reported that claims have been processing normally since the transition, with 10 percent of claims being rejected and only .09 percent rejected due to invalid ICD-10 codes.”

And in his Dec. 16 report, in which he interviewed provider leaders, Rajiv quoted Michael Lee, M.D., director of clinical informatics at the Newton, Mass.-based Atrius  Health as saying that his organization’s three-year  preparation for the transition had ensured that Atrius would not be devastated by the transition when it occurred. As Dr. Lee told Rajiv, “We spent a ton of time on mapping tables, getting diagnoses files correct, and the majority of time after that was on the revenue side testing transactions coming out of our systems, then testing those transactions arriving at our insurer systems, and then testing responses. We had that back end pathway worked out so we could get paid. We were working on this for a long time so we were comfortable that we would be reasonably okay with the conversion.”

#6: We learned that Chicago will never host HIMSS again.

Well, at the very least, not at any time in the foreseeable future. HIMSS CEO Steve Lieber confirmed to me on the last day of the annual HIMSS Conference in April that he and his colleagues had decided that their annual conference would no longer be held at Chicago’s vast McCormick Place Convention Center, because of what they consider the excessive labor costs affecting exhibitors. No mention was made of the exorbitant costs imposed on vendors by the HIMSS organization, according to numerous sources. In any case, for the foreseeable future, the HIMSS Conference will be limited to old standbys Orlando and Las Vegas, despite their far-from-universal popularity among attendees.

More broadly, we’ve been hearing a raft of complaints from all types of attendees about the HIMSS Conference—from vendors, who have been feeling overcharged and underappreciated, from provider attendees who have felt themselves lost in the heavily commercialized shuffle, and from all types of attendees, who still feel drawn by the opportunity to connect with fellow healthcare IT leaders and professionals, but who feel that the bottom line has been driving so many decisions about how the conference is organized and managed. It will be interesting to see what future HIMSSes are like, and whether the HIMSS organization begins to address attendee complaints and concerns before disaffection becomes more widespread.

#5: We learned that when it comes to RSNA attendance, what goes up can indeed go down.

After reaching a peak of 61,980 attendees in 2007, the annual RSNA Conference, sponsored by the Oak Brook-based Radiological Society of North America, has been sliding steadily in past years, with this year’s registration figure (final, audited numbers will not be available until at least January, according to RSNA senior executives) of only 47,060, for a drop of 14,920 attendees, or a decrease of more than 24 percent off the 2007 peak. There are doubtless numerous reasons for the ongoing decrease, among them the shifting landscape around radiology and imaging informatics. Whereas 20 years ago, the average RSNA attendee was a practicing radiologist, a chief of radiology, or a radiology department manager, these days, that attendee is as likely to be a CIO, CMIO, or CMO.