Connecting the dots on connected health at HIMSS16

Another HIMSS Conference & Exhibition has come and gone, and true to expectations, interoperability, connected health and consumerization were the most prevalent buzz words this year.

Kicking off the conference, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced that a group of major healthcare players—including companies that collectively provide 90 percent of EHRs used by hospitals nationwide, as well as the top five largest private healthcare systems in the country—have agreed to implement three core commitments: consumer access, no information blocking and standards.

Meanwhile, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT announced a $625,000 strategic investment to connect and accelerate the industry's use of FHIR-based APIs for consumers and providers.

The initiative aims "to spur the development of market-ready, user-friendly approaches," according to a blog post written by National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc.

ONC's strategy has the goals of helping consumers get and use their data, improving user-experience and utility for providers and coordinating open information about EHR app solutions.

Connected health technologies in hospital settings allow the providers to improve their capabilities to communicate with patients as well as deliver a higher standard of care, according to the 2016 HIMSS Connected Health Survey.

More than half of respondents (52 percent) reported that their hospital currently uses three or more connected health technologies, indicating the "growing importance these technologies play in the hospital setting," according to the report. 

More than two-thirds (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.

Nearly half (47 percent) of respondents indicated their hospitals are looking to expand the array of connected health technologies they use.

CMS also announced plans to bridge the "information-sharing gap in Medicaid" with an initiative that permits states to request the 90 percent enhanced matching funds from CMS to connect a broader variety of Medicaid providers to a health information exchange (HIE).

The broader variety of Medicaid providers includes long-term care, behavioral health providers, substance abuse treatment centers and other providers that have been slower to adopt technology. This additional funding will enhance the sustainability of HIEs and lead to increased connectivity among Medicaid providers.   

This is more than a technology initiative, Slavitt said. "It is part of a comprehensive effort to make sure that the 72 million adults, children, seniors and people with disabilities served by the Medicaid program have access to high quality, coordinated care. Improving population health and addressing the needs of complex populations requires strong health information technology tools."

I hope your HIMSS16 experience was informative, inspiring and insightful—and not too hard on your feet!