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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