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What are healthcare CIOs losing sleep over now?

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Liz Johnson has led a variety of informatics efforts at Tenet Healthcare, where she’s now chief information officer for acute care hospitals and applied clinical informatics. In her role, she provides information services and applied clinical informatics leadership for Tenet’s hospitals.

Johnson also has risen in her roles at the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), where she particularly has keen interest in policy initiatives and frames CHIME’s responses to federal policy, which carry significant weight in influencing HIT regulation. In 2017, she’ll be CHIME’s board chairman, leading the organization as it continues efforts to expand its influence.

Johnson recently answered questions from HDM Editor Fred Bazzoli on her expectations for the coming year.

What are the key topics that CHIME HIT Executives are most concerned about at this time? What are you hearing as concerns for 2016?

Topping the list is cyber security. With threats proliferating and becoming more sophisticated, CIOs and CISOs have to become even more vigilant in protecting their institutions. Protecting patient information is just part of it; medical device security is also a growing concern since so many devices are connected to a hospital’s network. CHIME has supported healthcare-specific provisions in the cyber security act that was enacted in late 2015, and we will be working with HHS as necessary to move forward.

Next is interoperability. Electronic health records and other technology solutions are critical tools in transforming healthcare. In order to move closer to the Triple Aim, though, we must tackle, once and for all, the problem that providers face in exchanging patient information. Central to that is solving the interoperability puzzle. Our inability to share information efficiently and effectively remains the biggest hurdle to creating a truly connected healthcare delivery system.

And finally, CIOs are concerned about patient identification. We need to find a solution to ensure that patients are accurately identified every time they visit a healthcare provider. Inaccurate identification poses significant patient safety problems and increases costs due to inefficiencies. Patient identification is also foundational to interoperability.

There’s uncertainty surrounding the future of the Meaningful Use program beyond this year. Does CHIME have a “wish list” of what it would like to see for the future of the program?

As we’ve noted in various comments to CMS and congressional committees, there are a few things for which CHIME has advocated. These include greater alignment and harmonization of quality measures; creating parity between eligible professionals and eligible hospitals; and removing the pass/fail approach to gaining incentives; reinstating the 90-day reporting period; and ensuring that MU focuses on using IT to transform care, not just reinforce a check-the-box mentality.

CHIME is making a strong commitment to developing a patient identifier that is 100 percent consistent in matching patients with their records. What is the status of the initiative that began in January?

This is very exciting. As of February 24, 171 innovators from 15 countries have signed up for the CHIME National Patient ID Challenge. We are now in the Concept Blitz round, where innovators are putting their proposals together. This May, CHIME will announce three winners from the Concept Blitz round, and our judges, who are being recruited by CHIME and HeroX, will pick what they view as the top three ideas. Innovators do not have to submit for the Concept Blitz, though. The due date for all submissions is early November. CHIME expects to name a winner in early 2017.

Security is a concern for most healthcare organizations, especially with the large hacks of insurers last year and the ransom attack at Hollywood Presbyterian in February. What should the industry do to prepare itself for attacks and prevent similar incidents?

The key is being prepared for an attack and mitigating risk as much as possible. From a CHIME perspective, our Association for Executives in Healthcare Information Security (AEHIS) organization—a membership group of chief security officers—will continue to share best practices across the industry.

CHIME rose in prominence in recent years by bringing expert commentary to legislation and policies that affect the health IT community. What legislation and policy initiatives are CHIME tracking that could have an impact on healthcare IT in the next couple years?

  • The initiatives that we are definitely focusing on include:
  • The future of the Meaningful Use program.
  • Implementation of MACRA and how it impacts health IT.
  • Implementation of the Cyber Security Act.
  • Seeing how the Senate and House reconcile the 21st Century Cures Act with health IT legislation moving through the Senate.
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