National HIT Day

I attended the National Health Information Technology (HIT) Day festivities held today at the Renaissance Washington hotel as part of a HIMSS summit conference. I heard four policymaker speeches.

The first speaker was Dr. Carolyn Clancy, the Director of HHS’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Dr. Clancy believes that health care information technology will power health care transformation by increasing efficient care delivery, improving patient safety, and empowering consumers. She identified the organizing principle as quality and she said that we must use health IT to build an evidence base to tell consumers, payers, and providers which health care services and supplies work and what does not work. This should create a stronger, more transparent health care market.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich , who now leads the Center for Health Transformation, emphasized the need to set the right health information technology standards the first time — standards that are market oriented, and will maximize innovation and adoption. Those standards should not be command driven but rather should be recognized to work in the real world by providing true interoperability.

Dr. David Brailer, vice chair of the American Health Information Community, informed the audience that HHS Secretary approved the AHIC workgroup breakthrough objectives on May 16 and that the ANSI Health Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP) will create standards for these objectives by September 2006. Then it will be up to the federal agencies to use its procurement leverage and encourage rapid implementation of those standards by government contractors, thereby stimulating demand in the marketplace. Also in the late summer, the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT) will begin certifying HIT products. Business and technical processes must move together.

Dr. Mark McClellan, the Administrator of HHS’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, reported that critical mass around health information technology is coming together. He mentioned a May 23 Mathematica study on how six types of HIT are improving hospital quality of care. He is noted the health care provider community’s argument that health plans not the providers will enjoy increased profitability from the improved quality created by health informaiton technology. He reported that CMS is working hard to pay more Medicare and Medicaid benefits for better quality of care and better outcomes. CMS has created several public-private quality alliances, such as AQA and the Medicare care management demonstration project, to create valid, consensus based quality measures. He also reported that by late summer 2006 HHS will issue final Stark Act regulations to encourage donation of health information technology.