Tuesday morning at HIMSS about 100 CIOs had the opportunity to attend a standing room only meeting with Dr. David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. The invitation arrived late Monday night simply stating that Dr. Blumenthal wanted to invite a small group of CIOs to have a discussion about the “progress being made in the field related to the use of information technology to improve health and health care.”
For me, a CIO from a small community hospital in Western NY, this was one of the amazing things I love about a conference like HIMSS; it’s not every day I get to share my thoughts with someone who has the President’s ear. Based on the crowd in the room, I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
When Dr. Blumenthal arrived, he spoke very briefly to tell us that he wasn’t there to talk, but to listen. He wanted to know our thoughts and our challenges about what was going on in the field as we attempted to accomplish the task of meeting the requirements of the HITECH Act. This is where it became evident that as CIOs, we’re all pretty much on the same page. Person after person, from the critical access hospitals to the academic medical centers, shared the same challenges and had the same concerns. Sure there were a couple of outliers — one CIO shared that her critical access hospital was doing everything electronic, and another from a large facility told Dr. Blumenthal that her facility would not be pursuing the stimulus, but everyone who spoke seemed to agree that the goals of the HITECH Act are the right goals, BUT we are all concerned about being able to achieve Meaningful Use by the deadlines.
Not everyone had a chance to speak, but as I listened to person after person it all came down to people, process, and money running up against time and a rigid “all or nothing” definition of Meaningful use.
- People — even if there were no other challenges, there aren’t enough of the right people available to implement the systems we need to achieve Meaningful Use. Beyond that, many of the physicians and nurses who will be using these systems are going to need time to learn how to use them safely and effectively.
- Process — as one CIO said, simply making an ineffective process electronic won’t accomplish anything. To improve healthcare we need time to change the way we use these tools in order to deliver better care. This challenge goes beyond the beside, because we also need to make sure that we can implement the new ICD-10 codes and capture the elements necessary to meet the reporting requirements and properly bill for services.
- Money — it’s going to be expensive and the stimulus dollars are all on the back end, and in most cases won’t cover the total cost. Combine that with the all or nothing standard for Meaningful Use and most are skeptical about being able to collect any of the stimulus funds.
In the end, I don’t know what impact our discussion with Dr. Blumenthal will have on influencing national policy, but I do know that at that moment I was proud to be a Health Care CIO. We might not all agree on how to accomplish Meaningful Use, but 100 of us came together and were able to quickly agree on what it will take — that’s something they’re still trying to figure out in Washington.
To share your comments on the proposed rule, go to www.regulations.gov and look under Health Information Technology.