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HIMSS Reflects on U.S. National Health IT Week

#NHITWeek

Tom Leary

U.S. National Health IT Week 2018 was a smashing success. In the spirit of the baseball playoffs, I can honestly say HIMSS members and our community colleagues hit a grand slam!

Having been part of National Health IT (NHIT) Week since it began nearly 15 years ago, I am proud to be part of a that collaborates so well with our community colleagues. Together we’re bringing into sharp focus the reasons so many organizations and individuals are actively engaged in transforming health through information and technology for consumers, caregivers and healthcare providers: to improve outcomes and quality of life.

Our campaign to catalyze change in the U.S. healthcare system brought together 523 partner organizations who demonstrated their support through various virtual engagements and on-site events. This included educational webinars hosted by 2018 Davies Award recipients (Mercy Health and Ochsner Health) and the HIMSS Women in Health IT Community and numerous NHIT Week Partner blog submissions on a variety of topics related to health information and technology.

In Washington DC, HIMSS hosted an awards ceremony where we honored and recognized influential health IT policy champions advancing the fundamental purpose of NHIT Week. We gathered in the historic U.S. House of Representatives Ways & Means Committee room to celebrate our congressional, federal and state health policy champions.

We also took to social media to celebrate, with messages by the thousands proclaiming #NHITWeek, #GovHIT, and circulating #IHeartHIT stories – illustrating the immense value health information and technology has demonstrated on so many lives.

NHIT Week Policy Discussions: Catalyzing Change

From a policy perspective, the HIMSS team had a great week engaging with government leaders and stakeholders. Our conversations focused on policy change to support transformation and recommendations HIMSS can make to all levels of government in the U.S. We landed on four themes that will inform our advocacy efforts in 2019.

  • Partnership Between Private and Public Sectors: In the spirit of the 21st Century Cures Act, focus on government action that empowers change and innovation by giving the private sector the tools to initiate solutions.
  • Data Integration, Ownership and Stewardship: Advance policy recommendations to securely integrate health and social determinants of health data to inform clinical and policy decision making that improves quality and patient safety.
  • Workforce and Economic Development: Advance policy initiatives that prepare the workforce with the right skills to ensure economic opportunity and health innovation for individuals and organizations.
  • Infrastructure Development: Capitalize on recent funding improvements and policy changes for the Rural Health Care Program to educate communities on resources to improve patient access to telehealth; update recommendations in the HIMSS 2017-18 Congressional Ask on public health infrastructure improvements; and explore improvements to Medicaid data gathering and dissemination.

Every year, we are fortunate enough to have our chapters work with our state partners to release proclamations recognizing NHIT Week. This year was no exception, as we had nine states release proclamations, a near-record number. The complete listing is pretty impressive. Thanks to our Chapter Advocates and colleagues for pursuing these important state-level endorsements.

Virtual March on the States

Perhaps our most valuable community activity was the Virtual March on the States to advance policy change at the state level to combat the opioid crisis. The virtual engagement led to hundreds of letters to state officials incorporating HIMSS’s recommendations on how health IT can help mitigate this important policy issue. We strongly encouraged states to change policy to:

  • Enact or broaden the adoption of electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS)
  • Integrate prescription drug monitoring programs into electronic health records
  • Leverage telehealth to increase access to substance use disorder treatment and address provider shortages
  • Create an integrated data infrastructure across public health, behavioral health, justice and human services to enhance timely opioid crisis response and prevention

I’m particularly interested in advancing public policy changes that help increase the number of providers utilizing EPCS – staying at 26 percent of providers using EPCS is woefully below the number we need to impact our knowledge and improve lives.

As a final thought, I want to thank everyone for the collective energy we brought to the NHIT Week. It was a week of celebrating past successes and identifying new opportunities for our community.

Our work is never done, but that’s the beauty of NHIT Week. We get to keep working to advance information and technology to truly transform healthcare!

2018 NHIT Week: Continue the Conversation

There’s still time to participate in the Virtual March on States
Visit the HIMSS Legislative Action Center and contact your state officials. Learn more about how you can support health IT policy advancement all year long by contacting policy@himss.org.

Catch up on #NHITWeek Content
Explore all 2018 NHIT Week Partner blog posts
Learn about 2018 NHIT Week Awardees
Explore a recap of the week on social media