CIOs have high hopes for 2013

Clarity, interoperability, patience, wisdom among many desires
By Bernie Monegain
12:00 AM

As healthcare CIOs across the country consider the year ahead, they seem optimistic that 2013 will end with significant progress on many fronts  -  putting the patient at the center of care, making the switch to ICD-10 smoothly, achieving interoperability, finding clarity  -  and world peace.

As healthcare CIOs across the country consider the year ahead, they seem optimistic that 2013 will end with significant progress on many fronts  -  putting the patient at the center of care, making the switch to ICD-10 smoothly, achieving interoperability, finding clarity  -  and world peace.

Paul Tang, MD, vice president, chief innovation and technology officer at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation in California, also serves on the federal Health IT Policy Committee that advises the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 

In his view the HITECH Act has been an invaluable catalyst for providers to focus on implementing essential information tools that are so important to making the right decisions related to individuals' health and healthcare.

"Building up to the 2014 inflection point in health reform," Tang says, "my hope is that we successfully leverage the tools being implemented in meaningful use and invent new ones that will help us do a much better job engaging patients in shared decision making and coordinating care amongst all participants on the health team. I'd like 2013-14 to be the turning point for patient-centered health."

When we caught up with William Spooner, CIO, of Sharp HealthCare in San Diego, he had just returned from eight days at his family's place in Tennessee, where he spent a chunk of time driving his big orange tractor, and thinking a little less about IT than he usually does.

"To use a term popular in D.C.," he says, "I wish that in 2013 we stop 'kicking the can down the road' as to patient identification," he said. 

Spooner is in favor of a national patient identifier to push data exchange forward. Though exchange is key to better and more cost-effective care, the accuracy of matching patient records is in the mid-to-upper 90 percent range at best, he says.   

"While politicians avoid a national identifier, I hope that we effectively deal with patient identification before we seriously harm any of those in the last 5 percent due to incomplete or incorrect patient records," Spooner adds.

George Hickman, executive vice president and CIO at Albany Medical Center in New York, has three wishes: a smooth transition to ICD-10, with no one seeing revenue loss; more easily understood Stage 2 meaningful use requirements than experienced in Stage 1; and clarity regarding business and clinical priorities. 

Oh, he has a fourth lofty wish: world peace.

Charles Christian, CIO of Vincennes, Ind.-based Good Samaritan Hospital, understands Hickman's desire for clarity.

"Clarity is something that is on my wish list and has been for some time," he says. 

He wants clarity around how best to introduce technology in a clinical setting without putting it in the way of care processes and clarity about using technology to enhance the daily routines of the direct care team members.  

"Clarity related to how we, as an industry, will implement and support additional layers of technology," Christian says. To be effective, clarity needs to be in "an environment of decreased reimbursement."  

"Another item high on my list," he says, is patience  -  patience to move the process along with the understanding that change is not easy, but it is necessary."

Denni McColm, CIO of Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar, Mo., wants the focus on interoperability to shift to the patient. Most of the talk and action about interoperability focuses on providers, she says. "Certainly providers need to be able to exchange information regarding patients. But, more important and more powerful would be an environment where we allow patients to be the stewards of their medical record without regard to the network or geographic region that information was generated from."

Scott MacLean, deputy CIO and director of IS Operations for Partners HealthCare in Boston, wants incentives to align so patients care as much about healthcare information as they do about their money.

"Innovation and convenience has been driven in other economic sectors by public demand for services and accuracy," he notes. "A public that demands real-time, accurate personal health information would drive price and quality transparency, interoperability and customer service  -  and the information systems needed to support these functions in the healthcare sector."

Rick Schooler, vice president and CIO of Orlando Health wants substantial progress on the interoperability front and better technology.

"As our industry moves to value-based accountable care through clinical integration and population health management, HIT solutions must truly be integrated across the expanded continuum of care," he says. "Providers and the industry overall need a healthy contingent of competent vendors and their solutions from which to invest for healthcare's future."

John Halamka, MD, CIO of Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston, never one to settle for moderate expectations, offered three bulleted desires. Within the three items, he wished for interoperability, new products, new clinical research, comparative quality analysis, and pharmaco-vigilience; innovation and data transformed into information, knowledge and wisdom; patient engagement and more. Of course, his wishes are all connected  -  he might say, "interoperable."

These healthcare IT hopes and dreams  -  and perhaps world peace  -  should make for a very good year.


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