Last week we attended the big healthcare IT confab HIMSS in that grand city of sin, Las Vegas. While many spoke of how HIMSS hit an all time record of over 37K attendees (an impressive number), HIMSS is still dwarfed by what is arguably the largest US-based healthcare trade show, RSNA, which had a 2011 attendance of just over 57K, (roughly 54% greater than HIMSS). Why such a radical difference you ask? As one colleague put it:
RSNA is where providers come to make money and HIMSS is where they go to lose money.
While that may be the case today, it is unlikely to be so in the future. The healthcare industry is undergoing a massive transformation that will likely take a decade to complete as we transition from a reimbursement model largely based on fee for service to one based on outcomes. Under this new model, providers will be taking on a greater portion of risk. In reward, these providers have an opportunity to receive a significantly higher net reimbursement. This transition is making for some interesting bedfellows as payers and providers join together to create new care delivery models such as Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and Patient Centered Medical Homes (PCMHs). These new models will be increasingly dependent on a robust HIT infrastructure to effectively measure quality, risk and performance, something that simply cannot be done effectively with the antiquated systems that are in place today in many healthcare organizations (HCOs).
In May 2008, when the Roper poll asked a random sample of Americans “If your medical records and personal health information, such as test results and doctor’s instructions, were available to you online, how likely do you think you would be to access those records and information?” Sixty-five percent said they were somewhat, very, or extremely likely to access their records. In the February 2009 stimulus bill, Congress asked the Health IT Policy Committee “to facilitate secure access by an individual to such individual’s protected health information” and “… to facilitate secure access to patient information by a family member, caregiver, or guardian acting on behalf of a patient…”
CMS now proposes that in 2014, hospitals receiving the billions of dollars of Stage 2 federal EHR incentive payments must provide patients with electronic access to their hospital discharge information within 36 hours of leaving the hospital. CMS is not only asking hospitals to give patients reasonable access to their own current and actionable health information, but it’s also trying to help patients and families address the wasteful and dangerous rates of hospital readmission and failures in continuity of care that haunt American healthcare. But the American Hospital Association is arguing that “Establishing a web portal or other mechanism to provide patients online access to this magnitude of data is unrealistic and premature.”
The deadline for comments to Stage 2 is upon us and a clear fork has emerged for federal regulators. The cats and dogs here are institutional vs. patient engagement. The institutional fork has been taken by the American Hospital Association. The patient fork is exemplified by the National Partnership for Women and Families. The primary argument is over patient access to their own information. The draft regulation suggests a 36 hour (or 4 days in other circumstances) delay. The AHA wants 30 days. Some patient advocates are seeking immediate and highly convenient access.
The fork in the road for federal regulators, with some $30 Billion dollars of incentives in hand, is whether to micromanage the institutions or to encourage patient-centered innovation. This choice is deeply entangled in the $Trillion realities of payment reform.
The micromanagement of institutions through increasingly complex regulations on EHR vendors, clerical and clinical staff seems like slow torture. We have institutions begging for relief. Large vendors are consolidating their lock-in business model as the barriers to entry into the health information market get higher and higher. Quality transparency is controversial and price transparency is almost unimaginable.