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Happy New Year! Lots of hard work ahead

Here’s a light way to end the year, with a Dilbert cartoon that’s actually more than 7 months old, but one that seems apt.

Dilbert, May 26, 2013
©2013 Scott Adams

No, healthcare technology is never easy. Neither is healthcare improvement, not that a diagnostic robot would necessarily be an improvement. There’s a lot of work to do in 2014. For now, enjoy the evening, and have a happy new year! Don’t drink and drive. Here’s a map of regions where AAA is providing free tows home for drunken revelers. Lots of local taxi companies are offering free rides tonight. Here in Chicago, the CTA is letting riders board buses and trains for a penny. There’s no excuse. Stay safe, and I’ll see you soon.

December 31, 2013 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Late news, literally: A new national HIT coordinator

Karen DeSalvo, M.D.

 

I’m a little late to the party reporting on the naming of a new national health IT coordinator, Karen DeSalvo, M.D. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced DeSalvo’s appointment on Dec. 19, two days after I boarded a plane out of the country for a much-needed vacation. I vowed not to respond to any work-related e-mail while away, and I stayed true to my word, so now I play catch-up.

I honestly know nothing of DeSalvo’s work as health commissioner of the City of New Orleans and senior health policy advisor to Mayor Mitchell Landrieu, even though I visited New Orleans twice in the early rebuilding stages after Hurricane Katrina in 2006 and 2007 to report on the state of the healthcare infrastructure. At the time, Ray Nagin was mayor, though Landrieu was Louisiana lieutenant gove

rnor and his sister, Mary, was and still is a U.S. senator representing the Pelican State.

During my visits, I met with several state and local healthcare officials, but never came across DeSalvo. She is the first national coordinator I did not know prior to taking over ONC, so I guess I’ll be doing some catch-up. From her biography, I see her background is in public health, much like her predecessor, Farzad Mostashari, M.D. That signals to me that there will be a continued strong focus on using IT to improve population health, one of the original 2004 goals of the first national coordinator, David Brailer, M.D.

While Stage 1 of Meaningful Use has been about installing EHRs, we should start to see connectivity and interoperability to help manage populations in Stage 2, which is just getting started, with an eye toward producing measurable outcomes in Stage 3, which probably won’t begin before 2017.

DeSalvo remains in New Orleans at the moment. She takes over at ONC Jan. 13. Acting national coordinator Jacob Reider, M.D., will go back to being ONC’s chief medical officer.

December 30, 2013 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

CMS proposes MU2 extension, MU3 start date of 2017

Less than three weeks ago, I reported from the American Medical Informatics Association Annual Symposium in Washington that officials from the Office of the National Coordinator for Healthcare Information Technology were publicly saying it was unlikely there would be a delay to Stage 2 of Meaningful Use.

In October, noting that the federal rule-making process can be arduous, former national health IT coordinator Dr. Farzad Mostashari said, “I think folks should assume that the timelines stick.” He was speaking to the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives a week after leaving government service.

Today, we find out that they knew something we didn’t. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed extending Stage 2 to 2016 and delaying the start of Stage 3 to 2017.

Per ONC:

Under the revised timeline, Stage 2 will be extended through 2016 and Stage 3 will begin in 2017 for those providers that have completed at least two years in Stage 2. The goal of this change is two-fold: first, to allow CMS and ONC to focus efforts on the successful implementation of the enhanced patient engagement, interoperability and health information exchange requirements in Stage 2; and second, to utilize data from Stage 2 participation to inform policy decisions for Stage 3.

The phased approach to program participation helps providers move from creating information in Stage 1, to exchanging health information in Stage 2, to focusing on improved outcomes in Stage 3. This approach has allowed us to support an aggressive yet smart transition for providers.

 

The delay to Stage 3 was likely. As I exclusively reported in June, ONC’s deputy national coordinator for programs and policy, Judy Murphy, dropped a strong hint that Stage 3 would not start until 2017, saying, “2016 would be a problem.” By pushing back the start of the third stage, we would automatically get an extension to Stage 2, making it a three-year program instead of two.

The start of Stage 2 already had been pushed back a year from the original plan of 2013. From my reading, what CMS is proposing today is not another delay to the beginning of Stage 2. Hospitals that have begun their attestation periods since Oct. 1 may continue and physicians are allowed to start Jan. 1.

CMS said to expect proposed Stage 3 regulations, as well as proposed ONC EHR certification rules for Stage 3, in the fall of 2014.

What strikes me as odd is that this announcement came late on a Friday afternoon. There is no time stamp on the ONC blog post, but CMS’ Travis Broome tweeted this at 4:05 pm EST:

Late Friday is typically when government agencies take steps they don’t want plastered all over the news. I don’t see anything here that is surprising or controversial, and it could be argued that ONC didn’t mislead people with earlier statements because the start dates for Stage 2 are not changing. Did I miss something?

UPDATE: CMS held a webcast about this that started at 1 p.m. EST. That’s still Friday afternoon, but not so late that it looks like they’re trying to bury the news.

 

December 6, 2013 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.