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Looking Forward: 2019 Predictions for State Health IT Policy

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From continuing momentum in consumer-centric care and combatting the opioid epidemic, to exploring blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI), our HIMSS chapter advocates recently discussed their predictions for 2019 for state and local health IT policy as well as activities taking place within chapter advocates’ communities and beyond.

Here’s where our chapter advocates from across the health ecosystem are expecting to see progress in 2019.

HIMSS CHAPTER ADVOCACY PROGRAM

The HIMSS Chapter Advocacy program provides an opportunity for each HIMSS chapter to elect or appoint one or more of its members to expand HIMSS priorities through grassroots and grass tops engagement. 

Consumer-Centric Care: Patients Take Over

Health and care will continue to take an approach that empowers patients to take the lead in leveraging innovative resources to improve their own health and care. “This will lead to many advocacy opportunities in 2019,” said Lauren Wiseman, past CAR Chair and HIMSS Greater Illinois Chapter Advocate. “Consumers continue to be more demanding in what they want to see and are more tech-savvy.”

What kind of innovation are patients most interested in? One exciting aspect of care that will continue to capture the interest of patients everywhere is virtual reality (VR), mentioned Angelique Robateau, Florida, Central/North Chapter Advocacy Chair. As patients leverage more creative ways to engage with their health, more innovative platforms will be leveraged. With this in mind, Robateau cited the possible rebirth of a VR medium called Second Life, a digital platform where users can create digital avatars, or visual representations of themselves. The platform has provided a place for cancer support groups and other patients and healthcare professionals to engage with one another about their health conditions, as they communicate with one another through VR. She experienced this at HIMSS 2011 Annual Conference.

Robateau cites the benefits of second life in healthcare as having a positive impact on industry research, as well as collaborations within health information exchanges (HIEs). “During my graduate Practicum in Biomedical Informatics, I entered Second Life (professor’s recommendation) as a nurse to walk through the triage and clinical process,”she explained. “I predict this will have a rebirth once the platform improves.”

Prioritizing the Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic was a major reflection point as chapter advocates reflected on their work with HIMSS and beyond in 2018. U.S. National Health IT Week, which took place in October, paid significant attention to this as it was the focus of this year’s virtual march. The HIMSS community encouraged contacting U.S. policymakers to address the urgent crisis within their communities.

“In New Hampshire, so far we have 72 new bills to kick off the new session,” said Pamela Varhol, CAR Chair and HIMSS New England Chapter Advocate. “Over half of those are related to healthcare, with seven related to the opioid epidemic.”

“I believe there’s going to be a lot of activity to build an opioid registry to be able to interact and support with the devastation and to deal with what’s occurring with the opioid epidemic,” added Bill O’Byrne, a New Jersey Chapter Advocate.

Among the 72 new bills kicking off in 2018, 10 are related to mental health. With this in mind, Daniel Blum, National Capital Area Chapter Advocate predicts increasing focus on the social determinants of health, an aspect of care that could surely help remedy some of the challenges related to the epidemic. “There’s going to be increasing focus on the social determinants of health and the community of care,” he said. “In the District of Columbia, they developed their Medicaid plan from 2019-2022 and it addresses a lot about that. CMS [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] has come out with a lot of hot topics on this, too.”

Reducing Healthcare Costs

Bonny Roberts of the Colorado Chapter of HIMSS discussed a plan being introduced in Colorado legislation aimed at reducing costs, outlining three solutions:

  • Solution 1: Create a multi-state consortium to pay for Rx drugs and universal care
  • Solution 2: Reach out to patients in rural and urban areas with preventative care, follow up care and frequent monitoring (telemedicine; mobile care; and applications)
  • Solution 3: Make healthcare insurance universal (eliminate costs of uninsured) if only at the state level

Blockchain, AI and More Innovation

More excerpts from the chapter advocates mentioned increasing focus on blockchain and AI, as well as continued momentum on telehealth.

  • Artificial Intelligence: “Robots won’t replace physicians next year but I think there will be manpower shortage in the future, maybe not as soon as next year on the provider side, but soon,” said Hank Fanberg, Louisiana Chapter of HIMSS.
  • Digiceuticals and Digital Therapeutics: “CMS and FDA have delved into this in some degree, in promoting interoperability and granting approval, I see a future trend in healthcare systems figuring out how to leverage ‘digi-ceuticals’ and then policymakers providing guidance around this topic,” said Ed Grogan, Maryland Chapter of HIMSS.
  • HIEs: “We’ll be looking at common credentialing across professions to make the HIE process more efficient for all involved,” cited Helen Hill, Michigan Chapter of HIMSS.
  • Blockchain: “In Cleveland, there was a meeting called ‘Blockland’ – they’re hoping to turn Cleveland into one of the sights for the development of technology,” said Rick Moore, Central/Southern Ohio Chapter of HIMSS.
  • Application Programming Interfaces (APIs): “From a federal perspective, APIs enabling the sharing of information from community to federal space, specifically the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA), are going to be focused on solutions pressure tied into affordable care. They will be forcing more information sharing between the network and those VA or DoD facilities as they develop standardized workflows,” said Daniel Blum, National Capital Area Chapter of HIMSS.
  • Telehealth: “Telehealth ensures continuity of care, so I do forsee an increase there,” said Ivy Barnes, Puerto Rico Chapter of HIMSS. “In working with the customer relationship management (CRM) taskforce, we’re looking forward to see that technology more widely available.”

“I think all of you are spot on,” said Valerie Rogers, director of State Government Affairs at HIMSS, who leads the CAR sessions as a HIMSS staff member. “Obviously so many of these issues are interconnected, and there’s a lot of thought leadership at many different levels about the future of healthcare; health system transformations here in the states and beyond.

“As for AI, I agree with Hank – I don’t think AI is going to replace our doctors just yet.

In early December 2018, the National Conference of State Legislators had their Capitol Forum here in D.C. There were a lot of sessions focused on blockchain – this burgeoning concept which I think has broader applicability to just about every touch point we’ve discussed today, this idea of smart government, and smart healthcare systems is a part of that.

In addition, I’d say the underlining issue or concept is around strengthening health IT infrastructure, building support and resources to strengthen that – particularly in the public sector, emergency services and the need for coordination with private healthcare systems.”

Reflecting on the forecasts of the HIMSS Chapter Advocacy Roundtable members, Jim Douglas, former governor of Vermont and current co-chair of the HIMSS State Advisory Roundtable weighed in “… I think there ought to be a continued, more aggressive push for interoperability…& we’ve discussed the value of HIT in disaster preparedness & recovery…I’d like to see sustained attention there …

Surely 2019 will be another busy and exciting year and we at HIMSS look forward to seeing the chapters’ work have a long-lasting impact on the world of digital health in 2019 and beyond.

INDUSTRY ADVOCACY AT HIMSS

Learn more about HIMSS roundtables.
Stay up-to-date with HIT policy resources: explore the HIMSS Policy Center.

HEALTH IT POLICY AT HIMSS19

Learn more about opportunities the topics above at HIMSS19 during session 96 - Smart States and the Push towards Health IT Modernization at 8:30am, Wednesday, February 13 in Orlando - Orange County Convention Center, W307A.

Register