HIMSS14, Monday: Five things to know today

It’s the first official day of HIMSS14 but we attended several of the pre-conference symposia yesterday to get you up to speed on the latest health IT news. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Could random, unannounced health IT safety inspections become a reality?

Dean Sittig, PhD, professor of biomedical informatics at the University of Texas Health Science Center, presented his case for The Joint Commission-like inspections focused in on health IT. We’ll see whether this comes to pass but he predicted increased government oversight of health IT. “I don’t think there’s any way around this. Something is going to happen.”

2. Healthcare challenges are pushing innovation.

And that innovation need not be grand and sweeping, said Lyle Berkowitz, MD, associate CMIO of Northwestern Medicine. Innovation can be big or small, complex or simple--“the important thing is how big an impact it has on the problem you’re facing.” Today’s healthcare innovators need to learn from other industries and “embrace innovative thinking.”

3. Interoperability continues to be a work in progress.

Expect incremental improvements, said Doug Fridsma, MD, PhD, the Office of the National Coordinator’s chief science officer. It remains an elusive goal, however. “Interoperability is always on our mind but never completely within our grasp,” said James R. Younkin, director of IT for Geisinger Health System. The organization’s HIE has delivered value but still faces numerous challenges before true interoperability can be achieved.

4. Patient engagement is a strategy, not a goal.

There is a continuum for engagement, said Christine Bechtel, president of Bechtel Health Advisory Group and advisor for the National Partnership for Women & Families. Patients are enthusiastic about the ability to access their healthcare information and she cited a survey that found patients with such access feel their physician is more trustworthy.

5. The future is coming in waves.

The current era of health IT investment is occurring in three waves: health information exchanges, EHRs and tools for health analytics, according to Robert Wah, MD, chief medical officer of Computer Sciences Corporation. As systems mature, they will go from simply reporting information and providing basic business intelligence to being truly predictive and offering better care coordination, he said.

Orlando is a far cry from the northern temperatures, although it was a bit chilly in the meeting rooms today. No complaints, though--palm trees are better than snowbanks!