HIMSS’ Open Letter to HHS

If for no other reason, the following open letter seems worthy of publication. It was sent by HIMSS to HHS’ secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on Sept. 30, 2014. The four-page letter, published below for your review, lays out the organization’s professional and political goals for the near term.

HIMSS makes three specific recommendations to HHS, suggesting to the feds where their attention should focus. HIMSS’ recommends immediately pulling three key policy levers: the EHR incentive program, interoperability leading to secure electronic exchange of health information, and electronic reporting of clinical quality measures (CQMs).

HIMSS also makes the strong recommendation for one three-month reporting period in 2015 for meaningful use, as well as publicly reminding HHS that there continues to be support efforts for interoperability. The letter does little than offer a pat on the back to HHS for its efforts, and says that HIMSS offers its support for everything HHS is doing, but the letter also serves as a real reminder that HIMSS is willing to flex a little muscle on behalf of its members if HHS doesn’t listen up or do a little falling in line.

To be clear, I have nothing against HIMSS; if they can get away with telling a federal organization how it is, that’s admirable. However, the letter is soaked with arrogance and bullishness, as if HIMSS is intentionally telling all in healthcare just how big and powerful it is, dammit. No doubt, this is the type of thing that’s gone on for years. I understand how lobbyists work; in fact, I’ve worked with them and understand their game. This is probably just the first time in a while I’ve seen such a blatant outreach effort. After all, it’s not like HHS doesn’t know who or what HIMSS as an organization is, but it seems strong in a nuanced way.

Judge for yourself and read the letter below. Are you a HIMSS member? What do you think of the organization’s power push?

Here’s the letter in full:

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New Meaningful Use Rule Allows “Flexibility” In Certified EHR Technology for 2014

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a new meaningful use rule that allows healthcare providers “more flexibility” in how they use certified electronic health record (EHR) technology (CEHRT) to meet meaningful use for an EHR Incentive Program reporting period for 2014. According to the HHS’ statement, “by providing this flexibility, more providers will be able to participate and meet important meaningful use objectives like drug interaction and drug allergy checks, providing clinical summaries to patients, electronic prescribing, reporting on key public health data and reporting on quality measures.”

“We listened to stakeholder feedback and provided CEHRT flexibility for 2014 to help ensure providers can continue to participate in the EHR Incentive Programs forward,” said Marilyn Tavenner, CMS administrator. “We were excited to see that there is overwhelming support for this change.”

Based on public comments and feedback from stakeholders, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) identified ways to help eligible professionals, eligible hospitals, and critical access hospitals (CAHs) implement and meaningfully use Certified EHR Technology. Specifically, eligible providers can use the 2011 Edition CEHRT or a combination of 2011 and 2014 Edition CEHRT for an EHR reporting period in 2014 for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs; All eligible professionals, eligible hospitals, and CAHs are required to use the 2014 Edition CEHRT in 2015.

These updates to the EHR Incentive Programs support HHS’ commitment to implementing an effective health information technology infrastructure that elevates patient-centered care, improves health outcomes, and supports the providers that care for patients.

The rule also finalizes the extension of Stage 2 through 2016 for certain providers and announces the Stage 3 timeline, which will begin in 2017 for providers who first became meaningful EHR users in 2011 or 2012.

For more information about the EHR Incentive Programs, visit http://www.cms.gov/EHRIncentivePrograms. For more information about CEHRT, visit http://www.healthit.gov.

HIT Thought Leadership Highlight: Dr. David Lischner, Valant Medical Solutions

David Lischner
David Lischner

Dr. David Lischner started Valant Medical Solutions in 2005, a web-based EHR and practice management solution designed specifically for the mental healthcare practitioner. Because he went to school to practice medicine and not administer paperwork, he set about creating a tool that would not only afford him more time free from his practice, but also provide a secure record keeping solution that is integrated with a clinical support tool – allowing him to be a better doctor to his patients. Simply put, he and the team have developed a SaaS tool that intuitively enforces measurement based care.

Despite expert literature highlighting the potential importance of evidence-based-care in psychiatric practice, most doctors simply do not employ these measures. As we know, those physicians who don’t start showing off their patient outcomes to insurers are going to be weeded out by both the federal EHR incentive program and the Affordable Care Act. Valant provides this market, along with the early adopter forward thinkers with both useable solutions to age old problems and readied answers to future concerns — of which there are many within this industry, and this specialty particularly.

The following are his thoughts about EHRs, building a software business and why he chose to start Valant Medical Solutions.

As a practicing psychiatrist with a successful group practice, why did you venture into the EHR space and develop your own software?

I loved seeing patients. I loved being in private practice. But I wanted to have an impact on a larger scale. And, I also discovered that I loved starting and growing businesses.

I didn’t like the solutions that were out there to help me manage my practice. They were either focused on primary care and other specialties or too narrowly on just one type of mental health care provider or practice. I also saw that web-based software was beginning to transform business processes in other industries and thought that this must be possible in healthcare, and specifically in behavioral health care. Finally, and this was a more distant motivation, I wanted tools that made it easier or even fun to practice in an evidence based fashion.

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