The Stage is Set for Significant Advancements in Health IT in 2009 by Laura Kolkman

In the waning days of 2008, several events set the stage for 2009 to be a watershed year in the quest for the nationwide electronic exchange of health information.   In December, the second live demonstration of the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) took place during the 5th NHIN Forum in Washington.  During that event, health information exchange (HIE) organizations showcased real-time participation in the exchange of information, signaling that it is time for the initiative to move out of Trial Implementation and into the Production stage.  This is exciting progress for those of us who have dedicated so many resources toward making the NHIN a reality.

Among those taking part in the Forum, MedVirginia successfully demonstrated in four Use Cases, the most of any participating HIE.  These included Lab Results Use Case, Medication Management Use Case, Authorized Release of Information to a Trusted Entity Use Case, and Wounded Warrior Use Case.

Also successfully demonstrating Use Cases at the Forum were CareSpark (Medication Management and Consumer Empowerment); Long Beach Network for Health (EHR Lab Results and Quality); New Mexico Health Information Collaborative (Summary Patient Record); New York eHealth Collaborative (Medication Management and Quality); North Carolina Healthcare Information and Communications Alliance, Inc. (Consumer Empowerment); and West Virginia Health Information Network (Consumer Empowerment and EHR Lab Results).

With the success of this phase, the NHIN moves into production in 2009 and will begin exchanging live data.  MedVirginia will be the first HIE to participate in the production stage.  Starting in February, the HIE will work with the Social Security Administration to begin electronically processing social security disability determinations.

Another promising development is the emphasis the new administration is placing on transforming healthcare through the aggressive advancement of health IT.  As of this writing, President-elect Obama’s transition team and industry advisors were working on an economic stimulus package, the cornerstone of which many expect to be incentives to speed adoption of health IT.  Early indications are that President-elect Obama intends to follow through on his promise of including in his economic stimulus package $10 billion a year for five years to be used to accelerate health IT adoption.  This could certainly prove to be transformational for health information exchange.

Overseeing healthcare and the health IT stimulus package will be Tom Daschle, President-elect Obama’s newly appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The former U.S. Senator will also lead a White House healthcare reform team.

In December, HIMSS released A Call for Action: Enabling Healthcare Reform Using Information Technology.  This publication was to ensure that HIMSS members’ voices are heard by the new administration and Congress.  Representing the efforts of more than 100 volunteers who participated in the HIMSS Healthcare Transformation through Health IT (HTHIT) Workgroup, the reports outlines specific priorities and recommendations HIMSS believes can help reform healthcare and stimulate the U.S.economy.  It recommends that these priorities be implemented within the first 120 days of the Obama Administration.  I highly recommend that everyone read the full report.  It is available online at www.himss.org/2009calltoaction.

Also moving forward at an accelerated pace in 2009 is the successor to the American Health Information Community (AHIC), which was established in mid-2008 to help ensure the interoperability of health information technology.  Chair Dr. John Tooker has said the organization, currently known as AHIC 2.0, will announce its membership dues schedule, invite other organization to join, and unveil its new name in January.

Overall, 2009 promises to be an exciting and productive year for health information exchange and for those of us involved in helping transform healthcare.  The HIMSS HIE Steering Committee will continue to provide a voice for you and the organization at the national level as we work toward accelerating the adoption of health IT.

Happy New Year.

Laura Kolkman is the founder and President of Mosaica Partners.