HIMSS14: Cruising the HIT highway

By Laurie McGraw
08:23 AM

As someone deeply involved in the development of electronic health records for the past 20 years, I leave HIMSS14 with a great sense of pride.  It seems like such a short time ago when the only docs interested in an EHR were the ones who tried to build one themselves: labeled “techno-geeks” then instead of the revered CMIOs of today.

Physician use of Health IT has gone from almost zero to pervasive in 20 years.  While the final push was admittedly from government mandate, the clinical information highway is paved, and it is indeed here. Sure, it may have a lot of potholes, too many areas still under construction and perhaps you need to take a detour or two to get where you’re going. But it is here and that is awesome.

The vibe of the conference reflected that. Remarkable achievements – meaningful use achieved by hundreds and thousands; amazing solutions to ready and steady for ICD-10; complex problems like supporting an ACO or bundled payments or population health; all key themes for EHR vendors as well as many new or emerging companies.

With all this information and rich data literally come hundreds of analytics solutions – big data products – to make sense of it all. I noted a lot of vendors new to me focused on security, addressing the challenges of preparing for and preventing data breaches. With increased HIPAA audits and the well-publicized data exposure by retailers like Target, it makes sense that new solutions are needed to help.

While I was marveling at the level of complicated problems being solved and the readiness (or perhaps lack of readiness) for the industry’s next round of government deadlines, I was also seeking solutions to solve known problems accompanying this fantastic EHR adoption.

In the midst of this new-found energy and buzz, a new study from Physician’s Practice was released during HIMSS confirming yet again that as great as EHRs are, they were harder to adopt than we thought. A large majority (67 percent) of physicians are stressed out by healthcare reform. That 67 percent is the exact same percentage that a Medical Economics survey reported were dissatisfied with their EHRs. I went looking in obvious places for important solutions to this very real problem. Quite frankly, I didn’t see much out there, which is disheartening.

Then I did a show floor walk very late on the last day, at a time when everyone is resorting to sneakers only, and energetic attendees are enthusiastically scooping up the last cool SWAG before they head to planes and home. Amazingly though, in these last hours there remained some pockets of buzz on the floor. In the way, way back aisles, expected to be nothing but ghost towns at this hour, they were anything but. Here was the start-up pavilion, the first time HIMSS exhibitors, the mHealth apps:  innovative solutions and ideas that solve real problems. What I saw there was incredibly encouraging.

It seems like forever since I have held the very strong belief in the promise of the EHR and the knowledge that the overwhelming majority of docs dislike their EHR. I  know physicians are not Luddites. Most love technology. But it has to be fast and efficient. It’s time now to put our innovative minds towards crafting technology and workflow solutions that will hide the complex inner workings of these systems from our care providers and present simple, usable tools that enhance clinician productivity.

The best, I believe, is yet to come.