Every year, the best and the brightest in the health information technology industry, via the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s (HIMSS) annual meeting, meet for a week. This year, it’s in Las Vegas, Nevada. An amazing experience I have enjoyed on more than one occasion.
The convention is attended by sizeable healthcare delivery systems, clearly large and small technology companies. Almost always missing; actual healthcare providers. The sad news of that is, everyone is building and demonstrating technology that impacts the providers more than anyone. In the 3 times I have attended, the only providers around, worked for government agencies, or another technology company.
While attending, I noticed everyone was relatively young. There were very few people over 65, and even those who were, appeared to be in great shape. I got the feeling that few had regular, or protracted, contact with providers. People like me, sort-of lived technology, and wanted to show the best, and the brightest technology; even though most has little day-to-day value to the provider/patient relationship.
We made a huge presentation alongside one of the largest technology companies in the world once, and I was shocked how, what we said, was perceived as revolutionary; having only real-world experience of how a provider works, is paid, and what the patient experience is like.
I recall the hundreds of patients I got to know when we managed medical centers. Dealing with the issues of paper, and what was then, the emerging technology of electronic medical records. Today, I know providers are complaining that technology is changing too fast to adapt, and at some point, they lose interest because there are “new buttons” to deal with. Or, that by making systems allegedly better, they get more complex, and the provider is going crazy.
Some large companies adapt by bringing providers on staff, something we all have done; but in some cases, they get disconnected from the world of practicing medicine and forget, or maybe get coopted by the corporate or technology innovators.
The good news from HIMMS 2016 this year had to do with a major industry pledge to agree on three key principles:
Consumer Access: To help consumers easily and securely access their electronic health information, direct it to any desired location, learn how their information can be shared and used, and be assured that this information will be effectively and safely used to benefit their health and that of their community. Many of the biggest health IT developers have committed to using standardized application programming interfaces and a single shared standard for communicating with one another, Health Level 7 – Fast Health Care Interoperability Resources (FHIR®), so that user-friendly resources, like smartphone and tablet apps, can quickly be made market-ready and compatible with one another. These advances will make it easier for consumers to access their test results, track progress in their care, and communicate with their providers.
No Information Blocking: To help providers share individuals’ health information for care with other providers and their patients whenever permitted by law, and not block electronic health information (defined as knowingly and unreasonably interfering with information sharing). The report to Congress by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) discussed the prevalence of information blocking.
Standards: Implement federally recognized, national interoperability standards, policies, guidance, and practices for electronic health information, and adopt best practices including those related to privacy and security. Many of these market leaders are embracing ONC’s Interoperability Standards Advisory—a coordinated catalog of existing and emerging standards and implementation specifications. This guidance is updated annually in order to keep pace with developments in the health IT industry. By identifying current best practices in standards, this advisory will assist healthcare providers to more easily collaborate with one another and share data across “interoperable” electronic health records.
This is a great first set, but let’s realize this is not going to be easy, or quick. This commitment is very important, particularly for hospitals that have a great deal of data locked in legacy systems, and are hard to interact with or retrieve data from.
Current Meaningful Use Phase 2 (MU-2) requires both a patient portal and the ability to move critical healthcare information using the HL-7 protocol. Also part of MU-2, is the requirement of providing access to all patient information and secure communication via their own personal portal. We applaud the initiative and pledge our own support to the program, and the three objectives. That is something that has been core to our beliefs from day one.
This process is also great news for smaller and more innovative players, which will now have a way to complete, not by complexity but, by innovation. We are happy to place our pledge next to the leading EHR companies in the United States. More impressive than the technology companies, and even health systems that made the pledge, was the list of four medical associations that also signed up for the pledge. It is important, critical even, that the patient and provider stay at the center of all the innovation we create around sharing and access, to medical information.
There was one glaring hole in the list of companies, systems and organizations that represent an essential collection of consumers; the sick and elderly. I would’ve loved to see them as part of the process, otherwise we risk creating solutions in a vacuum, missing the source or our innovation- the U.S. consumer of healthcare; the patient.
– Noel J. Guillama, President