The nation’s top healthcare information technology developers and many of their largest customers have committed to push interoperability, the Obama administration announced Monday.

The IT companies who made the pledge include Allscripts, athenahealth, Cerner Corp., Epic Systems and Meditech, according to the announcement made by HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell during the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society convention in Las Vegas.

A total of 17 vendors of EHR and other IT systems involved provide records systems to 90% of the hospitals in the country. Their goal will be to make it easier for patients to use the information in their EHRs.

Participants agreed to three things, Burwell said.

First, they said they would help patients more easily access their electronic health information and transfer it to any other provider or data user.

“We need to do better to unlock data,” Burwell said. A patient should trust his or her data can be moved where they want, when they want, she said.

Second, the group pledged to help providers share individuals’ health information among each other and their patients whenever permitted by federal privacy laws and not block electronic health information.

“High fees or restrictive legal arrangements slow down our progress,” Burwell said.

The group also promised to implement “federally recognized, national interoperability standards and practices and adopt best practices, including those related to privacy and security.”

Those policies include the use of standardized apps “to make it easier for consumers to access their data,” Burwell said.

Provider participants include Ascension Health, Geisinger Health System, Hospital Corporation of America, Intermountain Healthcare and Kaiser Permanente.

The professional organizations include the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Health Information Management Association.

In late December, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS released its newest iteration of an “advisory” on interoperability standards as “a single resource for those looking for federally recognized, national interoperability standards and guidance.”

Burwell said health IT systems provide “crucial support” for providers through easy access to data and analytics in an effort to see the “big picture” of healthcare.

As an example, Burwell noted that Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Mich., used an EHR to compare lead levels in children in her community with those of young patients elsewhere.

She quickly discovered the percentage of children in Flint with elevated lead levels “doubled, and even tripled in certain cases,” Burwell said.

“Today’s commitments are a critical first step,” Burwell said. “I look forward to all we will accomplish together, this week and beyond.”

HHS will check back in the fall to see how the companies are working toward the goal.

AHIMA CEO Lynn Thomas Gordon lauded Burwell’s announcement.

“AHIMA believes these three principles will make a significant and meaningful difference in making sure health information is available where and when it’s needed,” Gordon said.

While Premier, the Charlotte, N.C.-based group purchasing company has joined the pledge, its leadership is pushing for legislation to enforce the goal of interoperability.

“We support a public rating system of vendors’ technology based on its performance on outcomes measures of usability, functionality and interoperability,” said Blair Childs, senior vice president of public affairs. “We also support the granting authority to investigate and fine vendors who engage in information blocking.”

President Barack Obama just last week asked the healthcare industry to start sharing more data as part of the effort to find successful individualized therapies based on genetic information.

In a separate statement Monday, HHS announced plans to form a Health Care Cybersecurity Task Force as called for in the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015.

“Establishment of this task force will build on our work to keep systems secure and to provide information to improve preparedness for cybersecurity threats affecting the healthcare industry,” the HHS statement said. Nominations are being solicited through March 9 at

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Las Vegas, NV (March 2, 2016) – The 2016 HIMSS Connected Health Survey scheduled to be unveiled at the HIMSS Annual Conference and Exhibition in Las Vegas paints an optimistic picture surrounding the emerging trend of connectivity within the healthcare ecosystem. With more than 50 percent of respondents indicating their hospital currently uses three or more connected health technologies, the high adoption rates (and other supportive statistics in the report) underscore the growing importance these technologies play in the hospital setting.

Respondents found that the technologies implemented within hospital settings positively impacted capabilities to communicate with patients along with the ability to deliver a higher standard of care. In addition, 69 percent of respondents whose hospitals are utilizing mobile optimized patient portals indicated that the attention to a mobile environment expands the capability to send and receive data securely. Given these positive impacts, it’s understandable why healthcare organizations are looking to increase their investment in these tools for the future. See the full results in the infographic here:

“The healthcare ecosystem is increasingly converging on patient centric technology solutions,” said Tom Martin, Ph.D., Director of Healthcare Information Systems for HIMSS. “The role of the provider is to expand far beyond the walls of the exam room, especially as our healthcare system transitions towards value based purchasing. The Connected Health findings illustrate the importance of interactive relationships between physicians and individuals and technology as a means to advance comprehensive health and healthcare.”

The survey was conducted in partnership with the Personal Connected Health Alliance (PCHA). Insights are reflective of 227 IT, informatics and clinical professionals in U.S. hospitals and health systems with regard to their organization’s current and future use of connected health technologies. Currently, 52 percent of hospitals indicated the use of three or more of these technologies, including:

  • 58 percent mobile optimized patient portals
  • 48 percent apps for patient education/engagement
  • 37 percent Remote patient monitoring
  • 34 percent Telehealth – audio visual fee for service
  • 33 percent SMS texting
  • 32 percent patient generated health data
  • 26 percent Telehealth – concierge service

Nearly half (47 percent) of respondents indicated their hospitals are looking to expand the array of connected health technologies they use. Another five percent of respondents expect their hospitals to become first time users of at least one of the connected health technologies outlined in this report. The commonly cited technologies they plan on adding, involve:

  • Telehealth – concierge service
  • Patient generated health data solutions
  • SMS texting

To download the complete 2016 HIMSS Connected Health Survey, please visit: or follow #Connect2Health

SS International (HIMSS Europe, HIMSS Asia and HIMSS Middle East) are the five business units of HIMSS.  A not-for-profit headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, HIMSS has additional offices in North America, Europe, United Kingdom, and Asia.


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News Release

March 3, 2016

In a February 29th, 2016 letter to Andrew Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), HIMSS offered a series of recommendations for the development, implementation, and reporting of electronic clinical quality measures (eCQMs) as part of the CMS Merit Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), acute care-focused, value-based incentive reimbursement programs, and other alternative payment models for 2017 and beyond.

In the letter, HIMSS emphasizes three key points:

  • eCQM reporting should accurately reflect the quality of care delivered.
  • eCQM reporting should minimize the implementation and data collection burden on providers and health IT developers by using information already collected for care and reducing the introduction of new workflows.
  • eCQMs and its associated data must be relevant, useful and able to be used by providers and healthcare organizations to enhance care delivery and ultimately improve patient care outcomes.

HIMSS Quality, Cost, and Safety Committee chair Shelley DiGiacomo and Vice Chair Pauline Byom presented HIMSS recommendations at the Health IT Quality Symposium: Improving Quality in a Payment for Value World at HIMSS16.

View the complete HIMSS recommendations


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LAS VEGAS—What do consumers want when they interact with the healthcare system?

The answer may partly depend on their age.

At this week’s annual meeting of the Health Information and Management Systems Society, the themes of consumerism and patient engagement were front and center.

Patients are paying for a larger share of their healthcare through high-deductible health plans, and technology is playing a role in helping them find lower-cost care settings and prompting them to pay their bills.

And as more providers get paid based on health outcomes, the hope is that technology will be able to guide people toward healthier behaviors.

Yet the people who are the most tech-savvy aren’t necessarily the largest users of healthcare; those patients tend to be older and poorer.

“When you talk about technology engagement with patients and consumers, they each want different things,” said Tamara St. Claire, chief innovation officer at Xerox Healthcare. “We’re going to have to be flexible.”

For older generations, “It’s really about making their chores about healthcare easier,” she said. For instance, they’re most interested in technology that helps them remember to take their pills or schedule an appointment.

Millennials, meanwhile, tend to be research-focused; they’re finding their providers through online reviews, taking advantage of telehealth services and showing up to appointments armed with information about their conditions and potential treatments.

They’re also far more price sensitive, which means they be the most likely target for price transparency tools.

More than 80% of people under the age of 50 are shopping around for providers, compared to 69% of baby boomers and 56% of people older than age 70, according to a survey that Xerox released at HIMSS.

“People are putting off care because they can’t afford to pay for it,” St. Claire said. It’s strongest with the millennial generation, she added.

Providers are using technology to rethink how they relate to and communicate with their patients, said Hal Wolf, a director at the Chartis Group, an advisory group. They’re also paying increased attention to what’s happening to the patient during their end-to-end experience with the health system, from finding a doctor to paying their bill.

“Patient as consumer” is one of the investment themes this year for San Francisco-based Dignity Health, which every year works with three to five early stage technology companies to take them from startup to commercial enterprise.

That topic also has been getting significant attention at HIMSS, said Rich Roth, Dignity’s chief strategic innovation officer.

“I think there’s a big theme of patient engagement and that’s just such a huge opportunity, especially if you view it more holistically than just Joint Commission,” or patient satisfaction surveys, he said.

HIMSS’ core audience used to be chief information officers back in the days when the primary technology concern was implementing an electronic health records system, said Wolf, who is also the incoming vice chair on the HIMSS’ board of directors.

But today’s technology needs involve strategic concerns like revenue-cycle management, data analytics and population health management.

“Now we’re seeing the CEOs coming to HIMSS,” Wolf said. “They’re coming because they can see so much in one place. It’s all being driven by operations.”

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Substantial interoperability has yet to be achieved across healthcare, a recent report to Congress from the Office of the National Coordinator’s Health IT Policy Committee shows, held up by reasons including lack of standardization and security concerns.

Here are the five major roadblocks to more widespread data sharing, according to the ONC:

1. Lack of universal standards-based EHR systems’ adoption. True health information exchange won’t happen until a critical majority of providers have installed and are successfully capable using EHRs. Incentive programs have increased adoption nationwide; policymakers must continue to help the remaining providers make the transition.

2. Impact on providers’ day-to-day workflow. Technology has reached the capability of making interoperability possible, but process innovation has yet to catch up. Existing processes must be redesigned to incorporate new technologies – a more prominent problem in the healthcare arena, mostly due to a lack of standardization.

3. Complex privacy and security challenges associated with widespread HIE. Adequate privacy and security is at the forefront of healthcare institutions. The ONC has found HIPAA misunderstandings and privacy law translations detrimental to security, while electronic system design and accommodation rules for privacy laws have been formidable.

4. Need for synchronous collective action among multiple stakeholders. It’s crucial for all participants to agree on the “rules of the road,” especially related to the above issues, if effective interoperability is possible. Standards and rules for patient access must be uniform to bridge existing and future networks.

5. Weak or misaligned incentives. Economic incentives for interoperability can discourage providers. And traditional fee-for-service payment models aren’t enough to persuade providers the extra work is worth it. EHR developers have focused more on a fee-for-service model in the past, thus lowering the demand for interoperability.

Included in the report are ONC’s recommendations on processes to establish over the next six months to foster better interoperability. They are:

1. Develop and implement meaningful measures of the health information exchange-sensitive health outcomes and resource use for public reporting and payment.

2. Develop and implement HIE-sensitive vendor performance measures for certification and public reporting.

3. Set specific HIE-sensitive payment incentives that incorporate specific performance measure criteria and an implementation timeline, establishing clear objectives of required accomplishments under alternative payment models.

4. Convene a Summit of major stakeholders co-led by the federal government (such as, ONC and CMS) and private sector to act on the ONC roadmap to accelerate the move toward interoperability.

To be successful, interoperability will require “multiple stakeholders to act in a coordinated manner,” according to the report’s authors.

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