HIMSS: New audience gets glimpse of health IT

Date: March 5, 2013||   0  Comments

Each year, many of the attendees at the 2013 HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition are newcomers to health IT.  In fact, on Sunday more than half the audience at “Introduction to Healthcare and IT Enabling Technologies” signaled that they were new to healthcare and had come from another industry.

To orient them, Richard Hodge, senior director of congressional affairs at HIMSS, offered a snapshot of the U.S. healthcare system and how public policy affects healthcare.

“Washington influences what we do in healthcare every day. Members of Congress are trying to do the right thing but they have a lot of other voices with different messages,” he said, adding that HIMSS tries to educate Congress about the potential of health IT.

Hodge described the role of health IT in improved patient care, quality outcomes, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services electronic health records incentive program and meaningful use requirements.

In just two years of operation, the meaningful use program has defrayed the cost of implementing electronic health records by $11.5 billion. “We’ve made enormous progress,” Hodge said.

The current federal budget battles in Congress have potential implications for health IT. The sequester cuts may reduce Medicare reimbursement by 2 percent. Any reduction in Medicare reimbursement is not good for EHR adoption, Hodge said, nor is uncertainty around funding of the EHR incentive program. Congressional leaders, however, still express bipartisan support for EHRs.

According to Hodge, HIMSS provides lawmakers the amount of EHR incentives that physicians and hospitals in their district have received to show that the “meaningful use program has an impact on their states and district.”

He also cited research from the RAND corporation which suggests that the widest adoption of EHRs in this country would save $81 billion a year. “We need something to stimulate the situation and we got it,” he said, adding that providers are moving toward achieving meaningful use and interoperability of health information exchange. “We need to convince Congress to stay the course.”

Noting that adoption rates are increasing as providers overcome the natural reluctance to change and spend money, Hodge claimed “We’re past the tipping point in this country on adopting EHRs.”

Other speakers during the day-long workshop included Mac McMillan, Cynergistek, on privacy and security aspects; Judy Faulkner, president and CEO of Epic, a major health IT vendo; and Karen Ondo, executive vice president of KLAS research organization.

via Healthcare IT News

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