A look at goings-on inside the Beltway while the nation's health IT professionals and policymakers celebrated 10 years of progress and glanced ahead

Special Report: NHITWeek 2015

By Tom Sullivan
08:06 AM
US Capitol

The 10th annual National Health IT Week convened last week in the nation's capital and, once again, the discussion and debate were impassioned.  

Healthcare IT News covered the event live and during several preceding weeks.

Let's take a look at what we learned.

Patients really do appreciate the work you put in. That's the sentiment put forth by keynote speaker Nathan Wayne Waldon, a wounded warrior who lost a leg in Iraq and, after recovering abroad and at Walter Reed, is now CEO of Reveille Group. "You really do have a valuable impact on the patient experience and the healthcare IT landscape. I've seen it first-hand," Waldon said. "You chose to be involved in a sector that is not easy, that is wrought with a lot of challenges and obstacles. Thank you for what you're doing. It's made the challenges people face better."

Congress is listening. OK, OK, it's easy to be skeptical about our elected officials, but particular to Healthcare IT News owner the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society "taking the hill" with 3 asks in hand and presenting those to Congressional representatives every year, there has been progress. Last year's asks focused on minimizing disruption to patient care, more federal funding for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and expanding the possibilities of telehealth – not just because HIMSS asked, of course, but ONC released the Federal Strategic Health Plan 2105-2020, President Obama proposed allocating $32 million more to ONC than the previous year's budget, and Congress discussed several pieces of legislation geared to advance telehealth this year.

Flashing forward triggers optimism. A tenth anniversary of just about anything is a natural time to both reflect and glance down the road a bit. In this case, the overarching question: Where will be in 5 years? Will care actually be demonstrably better? Will we achieve value? Interoperability? No easy answers there but one panelist's conundrum sums it up nicely: "Patient engagement, yes; how to get there? Challenging." 

Policymakers and military leaders deserve more credit than they tend to get. HIMSS bestowed its annual awards on five health IT influencers this year: Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Rep. Perry Buck (R-Colo), as well as Military Health System CIO David Bowen and Defense Healthcare Management System program executive officer Christopher Miller. 

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has been successful. Yes, there will be those who vehemently disagree – including NHITWeek attendees. "The law has changed life in America. Many people have coverage today who would never have hoped to have coverage before. At the end of the day, they're better off today than before ACA," said Chip Kahn III, CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals. "The ACA has made a material difference in how we deliver and possibly ultimately on how we finance healthcare. We have reduced the uninsured by 40 percent and that is an incredible achievement." Kahn's outlook is not entirely rosy, however, and he added that international scene is presently so volatile it could be a game-changer at any point – and here in The States we are leading up to a consequential Presidential election.

What are your top takeaways from National Health IT Week 2015?