The federal government certainly did its part in giving the more than 37,000 people who attended the 2012 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference and exhibition something to talk about from the minute they arrived in Las Vegas to when the last weather-delayed attendee lifted off from McCarran International Airport to go home.
ICD-10, Stage 2 regs reign
Hot topics are showstoppers at Vegas gathering
Two topics dominated the discussion at the meeting: The government's decision to delay the Oct. 1, 2013 deadline for switching to the ICD-10 diagnostic and procedural codes and the government's release of proposed regulations outlining the requirements to meet Stage 2 of the meaningful-use information technology incentive program.
HHS' decision to postpone ICD-10 came just days before the conference started and the release of the proposed Stage 2 regulations came a day before the conference ended. In between, it was pretty much all people could talk about.
Daily rumors of the proposed regulations' imminent release forced attendees, convention staffers and federal officials to continuously juggle their plans, rescheduling and rewriting “town hall” meeting and specialized educational sessions intended to discuss Stage 2 requirements.
On Feb. 22—a day before the proposed regulations were finally released—Dr. Farzad Mostashari, head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS, drew an overflow crowd—and a chorus of groans—at a session that was supposed to have been devoted to review of the released Stage 2 rule. Mostashari gave a preview of the proposed regulations, but copies of his visual presentation were withheld from public posting to the HIMSS website.
Convention-goers also heard from a variety of presenters on their own implementations of and achievements with health IT systems, such as St. John's Regional Medical, Joplin, Mo., which had installed an EHR just weeks before May 22, 2011, when a massive tornado smashed the hospital and destroyed much of the city. The St. John's system was networked with EHRs across the 24-hospital Sisters of Mercy Health System, which owns St. John's, and that made rapid recovery of patients' medical records possible.
Within 27 hours of the disaster, the hospital was able to print out copies of the medical records of the 183 patients who were admitted at the time the tornado struck and begin delivering their records to other hospitals and providers, said William Showalter, chief information officer for Sisters of Mercy.
Officials from the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments used the conference to give a progress report on their efforts to harmonize the healthcare IT systems used within their respective healthcare organizations and to call on the vendor community to help develop a common replacement EHR for both.
“There are many sources of supply—commercial off-the-shelf, propriety, open-source,” said David Wennergren, deputy assistant secretary of defense for information management and technology, and the department's CIO.
The VA announced last year the establishment of an open- source project to upgrade its venerated VistA EHR, but Wennergren said, “You do not have to be open-source software to participate” in the joint VA/Defense development.
Wennergren said open-source developers may be able to create some of the modules that the new system needs, “but realistically, most of these applications will come from markets that are already out there.” Development should take four years, he said.
The HIMSS show this year smashed several records. The final attendance number was 37,032, well past the previous record of about 31,500 set last year in Orlando, Fla. A record 1,123 vendors also participated, up from about 1,000 last year.
For complete coverage of this year's conference, visit modernhealthcare.com/liveat-himss. The 2013 HIMSS conference and exhibition is scheduled March 3-7 in New Orleans.
—with David Burda, Christine LaFave Grace and Maureen McKinney
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