“I’ve read HIStalk, listened to Blumenthal. Will we get incentives, or nothing at all?” are just a few lyrics from the HITECH Train (Crazy Train parody) song written back in early 2011. If you missed it back then, here's a link to our video. And since it's been five years since the song was written, I’m guessing there may be a few of you asking, “Who is Blumenthal?” Excellent question.
(Doctor) David Blumenthal was the third in a line of what is now six National Coordinators for healthcare IT. Our newest National Coordinator is Dr. Vindell Washington, having recently succeeded Dr. Karen DeSalvo. The entire list for the trivial pursuit enthusiasts out there comprises David Brailer, Robert Kolodner, David Blumenthal, Farzad Mostashari, Karen DeSalvo, and Vindell Washington.
At the time the HITECH Train video was produced, the Meaningful Use program was in its infancy and providers (especially CIOs like the one in our video!) were stocking up on TUMS and Motrin as they waded through 800 pages of not-so-easy-to-understand regulation. Today, however, unlike in the ONC days of Dr. Blumenthal, the newest head of the ONC takes office at a time when Meaningful Use is fairly mature, and in many ways, winding down in terms of associated activity. What then is on the agenda for Dr. Washington’s ONC team? Recently, he answered that question when speaking to a group of reporters in D.C. and stated the ONC had six top initiatives moving forward. They are:
- Interoperability (specifically around National Standards, Payment Changes, and cultural changes to data sharing)
- EHR Efficiency (specifically around provider workflows)
- Unique Patient Identification
- EHR Certification (ONC will be taking more of a lead role here it seems)
- Technology Investment (continuing to investigate emerging technologies like Blockchain for healthcare)
In my opinion, the list should probably be condensed to:
- Interoperability (I would include Unique Patient Identification and Standards here)
- EHR Efficiency
- EHR Certification
- Technology Investment
Boiling it down further, and apart from playing with some new technologies, the main focus appears to be largely interoperability (a broad topic, granted) and workflow improvement.
It's reassuring to hear this on many levels, but I can emphatically state from an Iatric Systems standpoint, there is no shortage of work to do in either of these areas. For example, we have multiple teams delivering various interoperability solutions every day of the week. At the same time, we also see a lot more activity in the workflow improvement area — most recently through the use of Professional Services and tools that have the ability to modify an EHR’s workflow, perhaps pulling data from another module or launching in/out of another application in the workflow.
Moving forward, as always, we will continue to keep a watchful eye on the what the ONC is up to, and particularly as it relates to the various products and services we offer as we continue enhancing healthcare IT investments. To this day, I still wonder what would have rhymed with Mostashari had we produced HITECH Train a few months later. Atari? Ferrari? Oh well, thanks to Dr. Blumenthal, the world will never know...