Healthcare Business News

Live@HIMSS: Early adopters urged to help

By Joseph Conn
Posted: February 22, 2011 - 12:01 am ET

Early adopters of health information technology have a responsibility to help pull forward those colleagues in their communities with struggles yet ahead to achieve implementation and meaningful use of electronic health records systems, a top federal health IT official said Sunday.

Click here for a Live@HIMSS video interview with Dr. Mostashari

Click here for complete HIMSS coverage

Dr. Farzad Mostashari, deputy national coordinator for programs and policy at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS, issued the call to service to 400 veteran physician informaticists as the keynote speaker of the sold-out, physician IT symposium the day before the official opening of the 2011 HIMSS conference in Orlando, Fla.

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Overall attendance at the IT conference this year is nearing 30,000 and has already surpassed the previous attendance record of 29,100 record set in 2008, also in Orlando, according to HIMSS President and CEO Stephen Lieber.

By Mostahari's request for a show of hands, an overwhelming majority of the attendees have implemented EHR systems and expect to earn federal EHR incentive payments in 2011, the first year of eligibility under the program created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Members of what Mostashari called the “vanguard” of meaningful use can be either a powerful force for creating system change or not, Mostashari said. Certainly some “are able to pull the rest of the curve with them,” he said. “Others are not. I think it in part depends on what you do.”

According to Mostashari, those IT leaders whose organizations continue making their systems more useful rather than more featured will be the best role models and will attract the most followers. But if IT leaders and their organizations are “too different than the early majority, if your focus is too much on the earliest, neatest technology, you may not be an effective champion,” he said.

“All of you all should be movers in your communities,” he said. “All of you should be working with your (regional IT) extension centers. The bottom-line message I hope you will share with others and take with is that meaningful use is a jump start to what we all have to do to improve healthcare.

During a question and answer session, Dr. Kenneth Ong, chief medical informatics officer for New York Hospital Queens, asked, “How can ONC and CMS improve the usability of electronic health records? It should not require eight to 32 hours, with refreshers every six months, to teach somebody how to use an EHR.”

Mostashari said some things the government shouldn't do, but some things it should.

“I don't think we should have government say a screen should look like this, the font should be not bigger than that,” he said, but adding, “I think we need metrics” and “by the next HIMSS” as the result of an open process, “we will have some initial guidelines and metrics” on usability.

In response to another question, Mostashari said he doesn't believe there was much chance Congress will repeal the funding for the ARRA IT incentive program. “There is a real threat,” he said, “but the threat is not a political threat. The real threat is that we don't show value.” If people ask the question, “What did they do with the money?” then simply replying, “there are a lot of systems out there” won't be good enough, he said. “We're going to need to show that we added value, that we created higher quality, that we improved safety. And we will.”

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