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February 28, 2014
By Brendan Foerster and Karsten Scherer


With HIMSS14 in our rearview mirror, we’d like to recap some of the highlights of the past week in Orlando. The annual HIMSS conference is the preeminent exhibition for health IT, and with more than 1,200 exhibitors, hundreds of sessions and a crowd of more than 35,000, this year’s show certainly did not disappoint. We’ll hit briefly on some key themes, but at the end of the day, the main takeaway was about patients and the care they receive.

Paradigm shift must happen today

HIMSS14 kicked off with a strong keynote from Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini focusing on how the present is a time for change in healthcare. He cited an attention-grabbing statistic: the healthcare system as we know it today wastes $800 billion a year—more than enough money to pay back the whole national debt in just 10 years. "It's the perfect time to change," Bertolini said, "because the solution we need is not found in how Aetna does; it's in whether or not we meet that goal of healthier individuals, who are more productive, more economically viable and more satisfied."

One of his three prescriptions for change is aligning incentives, by which Bertolini meant payment reform, or focusing on the improving the care the patient receives rather than increasing the revenue going into the provider’s pocket.

Healthcare analytics required for future success

While many sessions at the Clinical and Business Intelligence Knowledge Center were vendors pitching their services and solutions, the most informative and valuable was delivered by Vi Shaffer, a research vice president at Gartner and one of the preeminent voices in healthcare analytics. In Shaffer’s opinion, analytics will be the top differentiator in healthcare through 2020. “We’ve talked about BI for many years. So what’s the difference now? Now we’re talking about ‘what should happen?’ instead of ‘what happened?’” To underline this, she showed Gartner’s latest Hype Cycle for healthcare provider applications, analytics and systems. Almost every upcoming technology or trend they currently track for the future is analytics-focused (look to the left half of the graph).

Hype cycle chart

Shaffer pointed out that healthcare data is tough to navigate and extract value from. In order for organizations to tap into the power of data effectively, the trifecta of applications, analytics and infrastructure need to be well-matched to achieve what she called “predictive intelligent healthcare.” Only now, after years of talking about analytics, are healthcare providers approaching a time when they can harness its capabilities.

Meaningful use moving ahead, like it or not

Despite the 25th annual HIMSS Leadership study revealing that most respondents expect to complete their ICD-10 conversion by October 2014, the reality may be a bit darker. In a recent article from Modern Healthcare’s Joseph Conn, Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, told HIMSS14 attendees, “There are no more delays and the system will go live on Oct. 1. Let's face it guys, we've delayed this several times and it's time to move on.”

The statement comes amid pressure from various associations and organizations such as CHIME, the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association (AHA) to extend meaningful use deadlines due to concerns that “as many as 40% of hospitals could be at risk of missing the 2014 certified EHR adoption and meaningful use requirements,” according to Chantal Worzala, director of policy for AHA.

Even though Tavenner indicated regulators might provide some relief and flexibility on hardship exemptions for meaningful use requirements, the bottom line is that the healthcare industry must work diligently to meet compliance deadlines. Tavenner stated at HIMSS14 that year-long pushbacks for Stage 2 and Stage 3 meaningful use start dates previously shows CMS has been sensitive to providers’ concerns. “Now is the time for us to start moving forward,” she said.

In conclusion, interoperability was a focus of discussion and seems to be the key to ensuring the industry moves forward over the next two years. We’re looking forward to see what happens and what HIMSS15 will bring us in Chicago.

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