I recently attended the IHT2 Health IT Summit in Seattle. The Institute for Health Technology Transformation, which is based in New York, sponsored the event, one of several it hosts throughout the year. These kind of events are a reporter’s dream—multiple speakers, with compelling stories to share, all gathered under one roof. The panel I moderated—which focused on adopting mobile health technologies—included representatives from an array of organizations, including Lehigh Valley Health Services, Palomar Pomerado Health, vRad, and Nuance Communications, two hospitals, a radiology group practice, and a speech recognition software company, respectively

Later, Bill Spooner, the CIO of Sharp Healthcare, San Diego, gave a summary of the IT progress his hospital has made over the years. Sharp is developing an application to become a “Pioneer ACO” under Medicare, one of two federal initiatives around accountable care delivery models. The IT requirements for this new model—which calls for preventive medicine, coordinated care across the spectrum of delivery, and shared financial risk with payers--are substantial.

But the IT deck at Sharp is equally substantial—with an EHR and multiple ancillary technologies (including single sign-on and biometric identification systems for patients) in place. Spooner described in a very even-handed manner Sharp’s steady progress over the past 10-plus years. What worries him? It’s ICD-10. “I’m scared to death,” Spooner said, citing some 55 applications and scores of payer transactions to test under the new coding nomenclature.

ICD-10 falls under the rubric of government mandate of course. And on that topic, Spooner noted that so much money is being poured into regulatory-related efforts (such as meaningful use), it is difficult to focus on other types of innovation.

Attendees at the event concurred. An informal polling showed that EHR and device regulation was the top concern, followed by HIEs, reimbursement issues, and meaningful use. Project prioritization was the fifth top issue. The bottom line is that these are very exciting times to be in health IT—but at the same time, there is a certain urgency to the tasks that can undercut some of the sense of adventure.


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