HIMSS goes to Congress, 'asks' in hand

Delegates to meet with senators, reperesentatives, staffers to talk health IT
By Bernie Monegain
07:46 AM
US Capitol

HIMSS delegates from states across the country are heading up Capitol Hill Thursday with three "asks" for health IT. They've discussed in several private committee meetings how they would approach the lawmakers or – in several cases – the lawmakers' staffers.

Congressional staff can be influential, notes Tom Leary, vice president of government relations for HIMSS.

They would want to ask for something meaningful, not too easy, but not impossible either – something of substance, something that would make a difference. HIMSS, after all, calls itself a "global caused-based organization."

The HIMSS public policy team put together a list of 16 tops for effective congressional office visits. Among them, "Make the home state district connections and establish that important constituent relationship. Ask questions to gain further insight. Request the representative or senator's position on each 'ask.'"

Here are HIMSS' asks:

  • Minimize disruption in our nation's health delivery system emanating from federally mandated health IT program changes.
  • Fund the National Coordinator for Health IT to achieve interoperability, improve clinical quality and ensure patient privacy and safety.
  • Expand telehealth services to improve patient access and outcomes and decrease healthcare costs.

There are asks, and then there are recommendations. HIMSS goes on to offer Congress recommendations for each of the HIMSS requests, urging Congress to require the HHS Secretary "to publish a review, evaluation and recommendations on the five-year roadmap of all mandated, health IT requirements and program changes affecting patients and the operations of providers, payers and/or health IT vendors."

[See also: Continua, HIMSS introduce Personal Connected Health Alliance and HIMSS, NeHC merge with shared mission.]

The request is not likely to come as a surprise to anyone – not providers, not vendors, not even Congress. The recent pushback on various government requirements recently has been forceful, seemingly fueled by frustration. The dissent has been embraced by most healthcare professional organizations whose members are affected by the government mandates, especially the requirements with competing deadlines.

Having called the government to task for failing to coordinate mandates, HIMSS noted in its recommendations to Congress, that it supported ICD-10, clinical quality measures, interoperability and several other initiatives critical to best use of health IT.

Still, HIMSS points to several programs in need of coordination: health IT incentives, HIE funding, standards, clinical quality measures, patient safety and accountable care/payment reform.

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