HIMSS 2016 Las Vegas: Key Takeaways

Tom LeeBy Tom S. Lee, Ph.D., CEO & Founder, SA Ignite
Twitter: @saignite

I decided this year to post my list of top things to look for at HIMSS and three items in particular leaped out to me.

1. Regulatory Guidance
HHS Secretary Burwell, National Coordinator for HIT DeSalvo, and CMS Acting Administrator Slavitt directly or indirectly discussed the MACRA legislation and its components: The Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and alternative payment models (APMs, such as Medicare ACOs). MIPS and APMs define how $250B per year in Medicare Part B payments will be value-based. MIPS awards high-performing providers with incentives of 27%+ of Part B payments and penalizes low-performing providers up to 9%. Furthermore, each provider’s MIPS composite score is reported to consumers via the Physician Compare website and a downloadable data file which third-party provider rating websites, such as Healthgrades and Angie’s List, may freely use and publish. This echoes how weather information sites such as Weather Channel and WeatherBug currently distribute and monetize weather data from the government’s National Weather Service.

There were strong hints from CMS pointing towards January 1, 2017, being the beginning of the first MIPS performance year. Furthermore, in more than one HIMSS session, CMS representatives said that the draft CY2017 MIPS rule would be released as soon as in April and certainly “within a few months.”

2. Interoperability and Apps
Burwell announced that the five largest health systems and EHR vendors deployed at more than 90% of hospitals committed to an interoperability pledge to support patient access to EHR data, eliminate information blocking, and abide by industry interoperability standards. Interestingly, the pledge does not specify any penalties for violating it, so the hypothesis is that competitive market pressure and the listing of vendors’ names on the government’s pledge website will keep players in line with their commitments.

HHS also launched an App Discovery Site, also termed by Slavitt as a “FHIR Cloud”, to enable third-party applications to interoperate with EHRs in an EHR-neutral manner utilizing the FHIR interoperability specification. Furthermore, HHS announced nearly $700,000 in challenge grants to spur the development of such applications.

3. Security
HHS data indicates that one in three Americans’ healthcare records last year were leaked in some form and manner. The Hollywood “ransomware” incident furthered concerns that health systems and payers are ill-equipped to protect patient data. Security vendors are now rushing to grab the opportunity. In the first-time-exhibitor hall at HIMSS, about one-quarter of these new-to-HIMSS firms focused on information privacy and security. HHS is also responding, as Burwell stated that creation and operation of a national cybersecurity task force, as required by the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, was proceeding according to plan.

What’s Next
I will be attending and speaking at a number of specialty-society, CFO, CMIO, and CIO conferences in the coming months. It will be interesting to see what echoes, extensions and differences relative to HIMSS emerge from those events. It’s going to be a very interesting rest of the year leading up to the January 2017 rollout of MACRA and its MIPS and APM components. Stay tuned.

Tom Lee hosts our monthly webinar series, The ABCs of MIPS.  You can register for this month’s event – MIPS and ACOs. You can check out all previous events on our YouTube channel. You can also view February’s event below – MIPS for the C-Suite: How to Educate for Action.

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