“We just need to do it.” That’s the comment I heard from a hospital CMIO on a HIMSS shuttle bus Thursday morning. He, of course, was talking about “meaningful use,” the standard by which providers will qualify for federal Electronic Health Record (EHR) subsidies. This year’s edition is the first HIMSS conference since the incentive program started in October (for hospitals) and January (for individual providers).
Yet, HIMSS11 was not all about meaningful use. “Meaningful use in some ways fell off the radar,” another CMIO said on the same bus ride. The new buzz—and source of anxiety—is about Accountable Care Organizations.
The healthcare world is waiting nervously for HHS to release its proposed ACO regulations. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was on hand for a keynote address Wednesday morning, but gave no hint of when the regs might come. Instead, Sebelius and departing national health IT coordinator Dr. David Blumenthal mostly stuck to their general stump speeches, perhaps not wanting to stir up political controversy in this time of divided government.
In some ways, Blumenthal’s presence at HIMSS was notable for something he didn’t show up for. Deputy National Coordinator Dr. Farzad Mostashari, likely to be the interim coordinator when Blumenthal returns to Harvard in April, led the ONC town hall on Tuesday. Mostashari caused some seismic ripples through much of the vendor community on Monday by saying that ONC will be working with the National Institute for Standards and Technology and other organizations in the next six months to find ways to measure EHR usability, and that usability likely will be part of Stage 2 meaningful use, starting in 2013.
While government-sanctioned certification has leveled the playing field among EHR vendors and clarified the shopping process for providers, some consultants and bloggers wondered if the homogenization isn’t killing innovation in the marketplace and turning EHRs into a commodity.
Politics and policy aside, the health IT industry seems to be in a good place. HIMSS11 shattered all previous attendance records, topping 30,000 for the first time, and had more than 1,000 vendors in the massive expo hall.
After two years of restrained displays due to the down economy, some of the carnival atmosphere was back on the HIMSS show floor, for better or for worse. There were magicians at no less than two vendor booths, and, the “booth babes” were in fine form. THCB grand poobah Matthew Holt pointed out via Twitter that Symantec had three sets of twins rotating in and out of eye-candy duties.
Interestingly, some companies showed up at HIMSS fully ONC-certified EHRs but no customer base to speak of, so there’s clearly a belief that there’s room for more players.
One such newcomer, Sindhu Synergy, came all the way from Hyderabad, India, with CCHIT certification as a complete EHR. One competitor familiar with Sindhu said the company had a good oncology suite, and apparently there is a market need. Lynn H. Vogel, CIO of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said on Sunday that his esteemed organization decided five years ago to build its own EHR because he couldn’t find a suitable commercial product at the time.
I personally didn’t spend a whole lot of time on the show floor, but maybe I should have. Beyond the “Back ToThe Future” De Lorean—not because Michael J. Fox keynoted on Thursday morning, since the car was there last year—and the ubiquitous iPad and HDTV giveaways, there were a few gems to be found.Dr. James H. “Red” Duke Jr., a pioneer in trauma surgery and Emmy winner as a TV host three decades ago, made an unannounced appearance Tuesday at the Hewlett-Packard booth on behalf of telemedicine vendor LifeBot. (Duke may also hold some kind of record for longest C.V., and his doesn’t even list the fact that, as a resident at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, he treated Texas Gov. John Connally, who was riding next to John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. It’s a fascinating read.)
GE Healthcare announced a significant agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to test the automatic sending of public-health alerts via EHRs, directly to physicians at the point of care. This was just one of many initiatives vendors and content providers were highlighting as they try to promote clinical decision support.
Tablet computers seemed to be the gadget of choice, as Research in Motion is trying to catch up to Apple by positioning the forthcoming BlackBerry PlayBook as a network- and user-friendly alternative to the iPad that can run multiple apps simultaneously. The Google Android operating system seems to have a future in healthcare as well, while I heard at least one rave review for the Windows Phone approach to tablets.
The gadget market changes so quickly, though, so don’t be surprised to view these products as obsolete by the time HIMSS12 comes around , next year in Las Vegas.
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By THCB staff
Xerox Healthcare Chief Innovation Officer Markus Fromhertz, a veteran of the legendary Xerox-PARC research center in Palo Alto, talked with us about the considerable strides the company is making in healthcare IT. “Many of the providers I spoke to this week are concerned about keeping up with new technologies and finding and retaining the IT resources needed to absorb reform requirements, particularly when commitment to patient care should be top of mind,” Fromhertz told THCB.
Xerox is working on advanced image recognition, natural language understanding and agent-based workflow technologies that will help automate processes and put the information healthcare providers need at their finger tips during diagnosis and treatment of patients. The executive said Xerox signed deals with more than 50 clients across the country in the past year.
This article brought to you by Xerox Corporation: http://bit.ly/f7vdh8.