I was happy to be invited to participate in the HIMSS #NHITWeek e-Book. They just recently posted the HIMSS ProBook (PDF) which includes mine and 17 other health IT experts responses. It’s nice to see my name alongside wonderful health IT pros like Regina Holliday, John Moore, and Eric J. Topol (to name a few). You can find my responses on page 26-27 in the e-book or I’ve posted my responses below. I kind of got this last minute, so my responses are a bit off the cuff. I’d love to hear your thoughts or your responses to these questions.
1. How has the conversation about health IT evolved and / or progressed since last year’s National Health IT Week?
With the announcement of meaningful use stage 2, we’re starting to see a real dividing line between those healthcare organizations that plan to show meaningful use of a certified EHR and those organizations that plan to stay far away from it. All but a few smaller hospitals are getting on board with EHR because the EHR incentive money is so large. In smaller practices, many are still afraid that EHR will slow them down, decrease their productivity, and cause them more headache than the value it will provide.
With EHR incentive money dominating the EHR discussions, ACOs are also drawing a lot of attention and discussion in the world of health IT. Everyone seems to realize that if we’re going to make ACOs a reality, then it’s going to take a heavy dose of well implemented health IT. The increase in discussion happening around health data warehouses has really increased and more and more health organizations are trying to find was to pull value out of all the data that’s now being stored in their health IT systems.
Mobile Health is still the wild wild west. Mobile health apps are popping up in every corner of the mobile world. However, we still don’t have any breakout mobile health app superstars which have captivated the imagination of the world. Considering the number of apps, one of them is bound to reach that point soon.
2. What are the major challenges to hospitals and healthcare providers as we move toward a new century of health technology?
I’ve often said that health IT is the great magnifier. Health IT will take the good and make it better, but it will also point out the bad just as easily. What I think the implementation of health IT has done is caused many healthcare organizations wake up to some of the problems they never realized they had. Overcoming much of the built in healthcare problems is going to be the biggest challenge to the implementation of health technology.
Along similar lines, the biggest built in problem in healthcare IT is the walled gardens which create incredibly difficult to access data silos. Much like a President once famously said, “Healthcare, take down your walls.” Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any authority that can make such a strong statement. Breaking down the walls surrounding healthcare data is going to be an almost insurmountable challenge.
One other major challenge we’ll see and we’re starting to see already is how to handle the literal flood of healthcare data. Floods of data will be pointed at health care providers from HIEs, PHR’s, medical devices, genomics, etc. Creating IT systems which process all the data into a digestible format will be key to the future of healthcare.
3. How can we increase adoption and meaningful use of health IT in hospitals and health systems across the U.S.?
I think we need a fundamental change in how we define meaningful use. The current definition of meaningful use might provide benefits to healthcare in general, but I know very few hospitals and health systems that see value in what HITECH has defined as meaningful use.
The hospitals and health systems I talk to see meaningful use of an EHR as improved patient care, improved revenue integrity, and streamlined processes. This is a much different definition of “meaningful” use of EHR. Once EHR vendors achieve this type of meaningful, healthcare won’t know how to live without it.
4. What advice would you give to the next generation of health IT leaders and their role in improving our healthcare system through advancement of IT?
My advice is that “when you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” To make the comparison, just because you’re an IT leader doesn’t mean that IT is always the solution. Sometimes the solution is to fix the process first. Applying IT to bad processes just makes things worse. Be thoughtful in when and where you implement health IT. IT has tremendous potential, but only when applied the right way to the right problems.
5. What’s one thing the general public should know about health IT that they do not already, and what’s an easy way for them to get involved?
I believe the general public doesn’t realize the power they yield. Patient demand is likely the most powerful force in healthcare. If enough patients requested online patient scheduling, we’d see more doctors providing online patient scheduling. If more patients demanded e-visits, we’d see more e-visits. Patients need to stop accepting the current method of care delivery and start caring more about the healthcare services they receive.
6. What’s one health technology you are most excited about?
I’m absolutely fascinated with non-obtrusive health monitoring devices. It’s amazing how much health data can be collected with a simple cell phone camera. Everything from pulse, blood pressure, and cholesterol can potentially be monitored with a digital camera. Plus, we’re just at the beginning of the health monitoring that will occur using a person’s cell phone.
7. Fill in the blank. Health IT is _________________
Health IT is integral to the future of healthcare.
Those were my responses. You can find the other 17 responses to these questions in the HIMSS ProBook (PDF).