New this year at National Health IT week

A toolkit, social media and three new advocacy 'asks' for Congress
By Diana Manos
12:00 AM

National Health IT Week has always been a big success in helping to educate Congress and the public on the importance of health IT, say HIMSS officials. And this year proved no different.
Tom Leary, vice president of government relations at HIMSS says the nationally recognized week is all about advocating, but not about lobbying. This is done through leveraging internal staff, HIMSS membership and various resources, he said at a webinar prior to the event.
This year's National Health IT Week, held Sept. 16 -20, had more than 300 sponsors, according to HIMSS officials. The event brought together organizations from across the country to highlight how health IT can support healthcare transformation.
"Advocating is when an organization uses information to inform the government with its arguments and tries to persuade the audience, and in this case, the Congress, on why they should take steps or what attitude they should take," Leary said in explaining HIMSS advocacy approach.
"We're really excited about this year," said Elinore Boeke, HIMSS' senior manager of public policy communications. This year, HIMSS issued a toolkit explaining how members and other interested parties could get involved in the event, both in their local communities and in Washington. The opportunities ranged from something as simple as publishing a notice of the event in an organization's newsletter, to conducting a site visit or holding a press conference.
"Another easy way to show your enthusiasm for health IT is through social media," Boeke added. Prior to the event, she encouraged stakeholders to "talk both online and offline about the value of health IT. Share your stories, share your successes, share your challenges with others. Get the conversation going."
HIMSS also created and issued new logos organizations could use on their websites and on social media, available in the toolkit. Individuals used #NHITweek to highlight discussion on Twitter about the event.
Martha Dameron, chair of HIMSS Public Policy Committee, said attendees of the HIMSS Policy Summit, held Sept. 18-19 at the Hyatt Regency in Washington, D.C., gathered to discuss priority issues. "The event always teaches something new," she said.
Richard M. Hodge, senior director of congressional affairs for HIMSS outlined the "three asks" that attendees would be taking to Capitol Hill in advocacy efforts. The asks have been carefully formulated to help educate members of Congress and staffers, who may know very little about health IT, while at the same time staying consistent with HIMSS public policy principles, Hodge said.
"HIMSS' congressional asks are three top priority issues that are selected through a robust process," Hodge said, beginning with a dialogue in April that goes all the way to August. The "asks" have to be topics that Congress has the ability to direct through legislative action.
"They may seem mundane to us, but we want to build that common understanding level," Hodge said.
This year, HIMSS and its members asked Congress to focus on: consistent nationwide patient data; the alignment of healthcare quality; and consistent adoption of health IT.
"The important thing is that patient data matching is a critical patient safety issue; it's a major cost issue and it's a major interoperability issue," Hodge said. "We can never as an industry or as a nation respond to the challenge that has been laid down to achieve interoperability safely and securely until we finally address this issue of patient data matching."