Introducing the December 2013 issue

By Richard Pizzi
09:49 AM
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The December print issue of Healthcare IT News

The December issue of Healthcare IT News has traditionally highlighted the biggest stories tackled by our staff during the previous 12 months. But the biggest news doesn't always mean good news, and it certainly didn't in 2013.

Take, for instance, the technology failings of the HealthCare.gov website. The Affordable Care Act still stands as President Obama's signature domestic legislation, but the technological failings of HealthCare.gov had federal officials making a steep climb to Capitol Hill for hearings, including the highest-ranking official to testify over website flaws. Managing Editor Mike Miliard details – in "Way beyond a glitch" – how the agency has spent almost $200 million fixing the site, with more than a quarter of that money going to IT flaws.

Epic technology failures are bad news for healthcare organizations investing heavily in new IT infrastructure, but big news for our readers. The story of Maine Medical Center's difficulties implementing its $160 million Epic Systems EHR drew massive attention when it was first published, as the hospital announced a delay in the EHR rollout, citing $13.4 million in operating losses over six months. Editor Bernie Monegain's "Go-live gone wrong" also highlights similar EHR implementation woes at other healthcare organizations.

Over on the West Coast, 24-hospital Sutter Health system in Northern California was the talk of the town in late August when it reported that a software glitch rendered its $1 billion EHR system inaccessible to doctors and nurses for an entire day. Associate editor Erin McCann explains how Sutter's problems meant more bad news for market leader Epic in "Setback for Sutter after $1B EHR goes black."

A national story in which healthcare IT played a significant role was the Boston Marathon bombing tragedy last spring. Bernie Monegain explains how IT was critical to caring for the Boston bombing patients by talking with CIOs and physicians who were on site that day. Health IT executives emphasized the importance of maintaining high bandwidth and the clinical and support systems that a community relies upon in an unanticipated crisis.

There was some seemingly unadulterated good news in early 2013, as an alliance of six top EHR companies joined forces to launch the CommonWell Health Alliance, a first-of-its-kind collaboration of rival vendors uniting to enable care integration and data liquidity. Cerner, McKesson, Allscripts, athenahealth, Greenway and RelayHealth made the announcement in March. Nonetheless, in "Competitors find common cause for interoperability," Mike Miliard described how some saw the move as a transparent team-up to derail EHR powerhouse Epic.

While the above were some of the higher-profile stories our staffers covered in 2013, readers remained just as interested in the quotidian tales of compliance. Erin McCann's piece on the final HIPAA Omnibus Rule that took effect in September – "Ready or not, HIPAA gets tougher" – was representative of reporting that gets to the core of the industry we cover. Office for Civil Rights Director Leon Rodriguez told McCann that healthcare organizations must get their privacy and security houses in order immediately, with the promise of hefty fines and increased audits in the offing. This is information that you not only want to know, but need to know.

And let us know how we're doing by contacting any of our writers directly, or me at richard.pizzi@himssmedia.com.