Slideshow 8 healthcare information technology trends

  • May 31 2016, 3:00am EDT
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8 mid-year healthcare information technology trends

Several key developments have emerged thus far in 2016 for the healthcare IT industry, causing many HIT executives to make mid-course corrections in strategy.

Cyber attacks

Cyber attacks against large healthcare organizations aren’t making news this year, but attacks on smaller organizations are making the front pages because of ransom demands. Ransomware incidents have targeted smaller healthcare organizations because they typically have unsophisticated defenses and are less able to mitigate attacks that hold data hostage. The recent spate of attacks compelled the Federal Communications Commission to recently issue cybersecurity tips to small businesses, including healthcare organizations.

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Data storage

As the use of electronic health records grows, databases are growing in size and complexity. They are challenged to adequately store and organize different types of data, such as images and genomic information. Healthcare organizations are beginning to wrestle with capacity issues as well as the structure of databases that store patient information.

Genomic information

As the Precision Medicine Initiative ramps up to enroll 1 million Americans in a national cohort, the sheer volume and complexity of big data it will produce—including that from electronic health records—will require an emphasis on access- and query-based exchange instead of the actual transfer of large datasets. Participants in the PMI cohort will voluntarily enroll in the study, sharing a broad range of data, including EHRs, genomic information, as well as mobile health data on their lifestyle habits and environmental exposures over many years.


The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act mandates “widespread” interoperability of electronic health records by the end of 2018. This further raises the urgency to make progress on the ability of digital records systems to exchange health information. Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that a large group of provider organizations, vendors and professional associations are committing to three objectives in information sharing—enabling consumer access to health data, not blocking that access and adhering to standards that can make that easier for everyone.

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Meaningful Use

At the beginning of the year, various leaders in federal agencies made pronouncements about the future of the program to incentivize the use of electronic health records systems. While the messages were mixed, it’s clear that changes are ahead for meaningful use. CMS’ intentions for the program for eligible professionals was clarified in the recently released proposed MACRA rule; it’s not yet clear how the MU program will proceed for hospitals.

Reimbursement changes (CPC+, MACRA)

Pushing for wider use of value-based care, CMS announced the Comprehensive Primary Care Plus Program, or CPC+, to transform and improve primary care. The program is an advanced model of a primary care medical home that rewards value and quality through new payment methodologies. Many key targets of CPC+ will rely on IT systems for support. Meanwhile, CMS has proposed its much-anticipated Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) rule, which included the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) for eligible clinicians. Under the proposed rule, Meaningful Use is essentially restructured into a new Advancing Care Information (ACI) performance category as part of MIPS for purposes of calculating payment.


Shoring up network security remains a top priority at healthcare organizations, particularly as the prevalence of attacks, and breaches, becomes more widely known. Some 90 percent of healthcare organization responding to a recent Ponemon Institute reported that they had been victimized by a data breach in the past two years, and 45 percent had more than five data breaches during that same time period. Spending on information security continues to rise at healthcare organizations.

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Unique patient identifier

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives is making a big push to find a solution that can achieve 100 percent certainty in matching patients with their electronic health records. The organization is running a $1 million challenge to find a solution. “Somewhere in this country right now, someone is being harmed, injured or possibly killed, just due to misidentification. That’s how grave the issue is today,” says Russ Branzell, president and CEO at CHIME.