Last week we attended the big healthcare IT confab HIMSS in that grand city of sin, Las Vegas. While many spoke of how HIMSS hit an all time record of over 37K attendees (an impressive number), HIMSS is still dwarfed by what is arguably the largest US-based healthcare trade show, RSNA, which had a 2011 attendance of just over 57K, (roughly 54% greater than HIMSS). Why such a radical difference you ask? As one colleague put it:
RSNA is where providers come to make money and HIMSS is where they go to lose money.
While that may be the case today, it is unlikely to be so in the future. The healthcare industry is undergoing a massive transformation that will likely take a decade to complete as we transition from a reimbursement model largely based on fee for service to one based on outcomes. Under this new model, providers will be taking on a greater portion of risk. In reward, these providers have an opportunity to receive a significantly higher net reimbursement. This transition is making for some interesting bedfellows as payers and providers join together to create new care delivery models such as Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and Patient Centered Medical Homes (PCMHs). These new models will be increasingly dependent on a robust HIT infrastructure to effectively measure quality, risk and performance, something that simply cannot be done effectively with the antiquated systems that are in place today in many healthcare organizations (HCOs).
Nearly every vendor we met with at HIMSS had a story to tell about how they had the solution the market was seeking for ACO enablement. This was not entirely unexpected for last year we thought that would be the year of ACO. Obviously, we were a little ahead of ourselves and the industry with that prediction but alas it has come to pass. Small problem though: HIT vendors have had plenty of time to prepare their solutions for ACO enablement but to our surprise, most solutions were still far from mature. Frankly, we are not too worried about this right now for Chilmark is forecasting significant evolution, innovation, and in short-time maturity in these solutions as customers (HCOs) further define what they truly need to succeed in this new world order of reimbursement for healthcare delivery in the US.
This raises what our research team found to be the most significant learning from HIMSS12.
As most of you already know, ONC made quite a splash at HIMSS by announcing the release of Stage 2 meaningful use (MU) requirements (we’ll have a future post on the implications of these requirements later this week). But honestly, we did not see a wild wrangling of commentary and discussion in the halls of HIMSS12 regarding these new requirements. Maybe this was because most attendees were simply addressing the needs of today and did not have time to thoroughly review these new requirements. But we believe something else may be at work here.
The MU requirements have become little more than a “spec-sheet” for vendors, consultants and IT shops and departments. These requirements have nothing to do with innovation and have little to do with the dramatic changes that will occur in this industry in the next decade. Quoting that oft-used phrase, “follow the money” one can quickly see that the billions in funding for incentivizing providers to adopt EHRs under the HITECH Act is relative chump change to the dramatic fortunes that may be won or lost under the new value-based payment models that are proliferating throughout the industry – payment models that commonly fall under the rubric of ACO or PCMH. In each of these models, EHRs are important to a degree, they are part of the basic infrastructure. But it is what one does with the data that matters (collect, communicate, collaborate, synthesize, analyze, measure and improve). Therefore, if you want to see innovation look beyond today and the tactical push to effectively adopt and meaningfully use EHRs and towards the future of how that data will be used to drive quality improvements, better outcomes and lowering risk exposure.
And speaking of risks…
What was clearly lacking at this year’s HIMSS was patient engagement. Yes, there was a seminar on the topic and sure, everyone speaks of patient-centric care but there was little evidence among exhibitors at this year’s HIMSS (with a few exceptions, e.g., Cerner, MEDSEEK, RelayHealth) that spoke to the need to engage patients as part of the care team. One will never get to that nirvana of a truly effective ACO or PCMH without active, effective engagement of the patient. Not having an engaged patient is your greatest risk.
John Moore blogs regularly at Chilmark Research.