First HIPAA pri­vacy fine stings

HIMSS con­ven­tion de­liv­ers with hot IT top­ics

Modern Healthcare - - Front Page - Joseph Conn

Dr. David Blu­men­thal, the out­go­ing head of the Of­fice of the Na­tional Co­or­di­na­tor for Health In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy, de­clared the dawn of “the age of mean­ing­ful use” in his key­note speech last week dur­ing the HIMSS 2011 na­tional con­ven­tion in Or­lando, Fla.

Meet­ing mean­ing­ful-use re­quire­ments is a con­di­tion to re­ceiv­ing gov­ern­ment IT in­cen­tive pay­ments and it was a pre­dom­i­nant topic at the show this year, which cel­e­brated its 50th an­niver­sary with a show-record 31,225 at­ten- try and come and be rec­og­nized, to try health­care, and to try this au­di­ence and say, there may be peo­ple here we need to see.”

Still, the health­care in­dus­try has many more items on its prob­lem list, ev­i­denced by the num­ber of HIMSS ed­u­ca­tional ses­sions as well as thou­sands of prod­ucts on dis­play in the sprawl­ing ex­hibit hall.

For ex­am­ple, ac­count­able care or­ga­ni­za­tions and pa­tient-cen­tered med­i­cal homes— what they are and how IT can help an or­ga­ni­za­tion pre­pare for a fu­ture in­volv­ing both— ing funds for the startup of state health in­for­ma­tion ex­changes, and work­ing with the CMS to launch IT in­cen­tive pro­grams un­der Medi­care and Med­i­caid that could dole out an es­ti­mated $27 bil­lion to providers who adopt and mean­ing­fully use EHR sys­tems.

The re­gional ex­ten­sion cen­ters, cre­ated to pro­vide doc­tors and hos­pi­tals with as­sis­tance in buy­ing and in­stalling EHRs, are en­rolling 6,000 providers a week and have 47,000 signed up so far, Blu­men­thal said. The ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams have 3,400 IT trainees due to grad­u­ate this spring, he said.

“To­day, ev­ery state and ter­ri­tory has a health IT co­or­di­na­tor, and 35 states have im­ple­men­ta­tion plans for health in­for­ma­tion ex­change,” Blu­men­thal said. In ad­di­tion, 21,300 providers have reg­is­tered for in­cen­tive pay­ments un­der Medi­care and Med­i­caid while four states al­ready have paid out $20 mil­lion in Med­i­caid IT in­cen­tive pay­ments. Start­ing May 1, Medi­care will be­gin pay­ing mean­ing­ful users of EHRs, he said.

Work is un­der way de­vel­op­ing Stage 2 mean­ing­ful-use cri­te­ria for use be­gin­ning in 2013, and a panel of pri­vacy and se­cu­rity ad­vis­ers is de­vel­op­ing rec­om­men­da­tions for na­tional poli­cies in those ar­eas, he said.

“We are aware that the timetable for Stage 2 of mean­ing­ful use will be chal­leng­ing,” he said, but ONC re­mains com­mit­ted that Stage 2 goals “will be rea­son­able and achiev­able.”

Dr. Farzad Mostashari, deputy na­tional co­or­di­na­tor for pro­grams and pol­icy at ONC, told sev­eral hun­dred physi­cian in­for­mati­cists and EHR pi­o­neers at a pre-show sym­po­sium that they were part of the “van­guard” of mean­ing­ful users. Mostashari called on them to work in their com­mu­ni­ties with later adopters of tech­nol­ogy “to pull the rest of the curve” to­ward them.

HHS Sec­re­tary Kath­leen Se­be­lius also de­liv­ered an ad­dress, and she promised that de­spite “lots of dis­agree­ment” in Congress, health in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy “is one of those is­sues where Democrats and Repub­li­cans stand to­gether.” She and her col­leagues in the ad­min­is­tra­tion, she said, “be­lieve in health IT be­cause it’s an in­vest­ment in a stronger econ­omy.” Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s bud­get pro­posal in­cludes a 25% in­crease for ONC op­er­a­tions, she said.

Typ­i­cally, health­care IT in­dus­try or­ga­ni­za­tions squir­rel away nuggets of news for re­lease at the HIMSS show and 2011 was no ex­cep­tion, only this year, it was the gov­ern­ment, not the pri­vate sec­tor, that had the big news.

CMS Ad­min­is­tra­tor Dr. Don­ald Ber­wick used his ad­dress on the fi­nal day of the show

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