HIMSS ’16 Las Vegas: Key takeaways

As the HIMSS Conference continues its growth, there is risk that attendees will lose the signal in the noise. But the event continues to defy expectations by delivering both volume and value (to borrow a popular healthcare line).

Held this year in a city built on distraction, HIMSS ’16 was rich in substance: educational opportunities, personal engagement and accessibility by even the largest organizations and agencies.

Dynamic Health IT once again hosted a booth with our partners at MaxMD, conveniently located near the Interoperability Showcase. We enjoyed seeing new faces, catching up with old friends and immersing ourselves in everything healthcare IT. We also ventured out from the booth to take advantage of the vast landscape of HIMSS programming.

What follows are key takeaways from the conference, with a focus on interoperability and clinical quality measures (CQMs):

CQMs: finding common ground

During the conference, we talked to a lot of attendees about their experience with CQMs – both in-person and through social media – listening to their needs and concerns on issues from data extraction to final submission. We came away optimistic about the flexibility of CQMsolution to meet client needs on this spectrum and the advantages of being a Data Submission Vendor (DSV) to assist customers through final submission.

There is a truly dizzying array of quality measurement programs (and measures), but there are also concerted efforts to get them on the same page. In particular, CMS’ MIPS program seeks to align the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), the Value Modifier and the the Electronic Health Record incentive program into one program. There is also increasing use of eCQMs by private insurers, as reflected by NCQA’s eMeasure Certification.

Checking in with DeSalvo and Slavitt

There was great interest in the Wednesday afternoon talk featuring Karen DeSalvo, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, and Andy Slavitt, Acting Administrator at CMS.

One of our most-liked HIMSS ’16 app posts was a quote from Slavitt during the discussion: “Interoperability is a means to an end.”  This point was at the crux of the Interoperability Showcase, which featured patient-based stories as a reminder that data flow should always be in service of patient care. On the physician side, Slavitt offered a reminder, through emphatic quotes by physicians in the field, that EHRs are failing doctors in some fundamentals ways.

Slavitt openly acknowledged that Karen DeSalvo was the more positive of the two and this was certainly in evidence when she reminded the audience of the immense progress that has been made since the inception of HITECH certification. She cited, as HHS Secretary Burwell did, the fact that 75% of physicians now use EHRs.

CMS and ONC: In Real Life

One reason why real life conferences still matter: the opportunity for face-to-face, personal interactions with people driving policy in large government agencies. Not all questions are easily resolved by a phone call or a quick scan of a webpage. And it’s nice to have the human side of what can sometimes be perceived as faceless organizations.

We met with CMS and ONC officials to discuss specifics about quality measure reporting. This collaborative spirit, reflected in initiatives such as the recently-announced ONC Tech Lab, is encouraging to see.

Quality Measure Testing Tools

Anyone who missed the MITRE sessions at HIMSS ’16 missed a lot. At DHIT, we have been closely-involved with MITRE’s Cypress and BONNIE tools, which assists in our quality measure development, testing and validation. MITRE previewed some exciting new features in these tools (such as a BONNIE API).

Interoperability Testing gets FHIRed up

Dynamic Health IT’s booth neighbored the Interoperability Showcase, so we’re naturally a little biased here. MITRE spoke on their FHIR-testing tool called Crucible, which includes over 200 tests and a testing vertical just for API.

DHIT with FHIR Chief Grahame Grieve

Along with ConCert, HIMSS’ own interoperability testing and certification process, it’s clear that the industry is making very concrete commitments to defining what is and is not interoperability. ConCert includes a self-service Interoperability Testing Tool that will help developers incrementally test as they progress toward true interoperability.

As always, we enjoyed spending some time with FHIR architect Grahame Greive. There were, of course, plenty of #FHIR puns to go around:

One more before lunch: #HIT us with your best shot (immunization), #FHIR away. #FHIRpuns #HIMSS16

— Dynamic Health IT (@DynamicHealthIT) March 1, 2016

Direct Trust expands its reach

Our discussions at the booth (and beyond), brought home the point that Direct protocol can be used for much more than just Transition of Care (TOC). Attendees were pleasantly surprised to hear “Yep, Direct can do that” in response to a number of use cases, including secure messaging via mobile device.

This really deserves its own post, but you really couldn’t go anywhere at HIMSS ’16 and be out of earshot from someone discussing APIs. Part of the “Interoperability Pledge” fostered by ONC, involved a commitment to using APIs.

We can certainly attest to this growth through our own work with API development. And I don’t think we’re alone in eagerly awaiting an API for clinical quality measure submission.

Peyton under center (stage)

The recently-retired Broncos quarterback spun out some inspiring quotes for the crowd:

“Football is a game. Revolutionizing healthcare is a mighty endeavor.” 

“Pressure is what you feel when you do not have a plan. Be prepared. “

As a reminder that health IT cuts across nearly every industry, Manning was joined after his speech by a physician who spoke about the NFL’s EHR system. We swelled with pride to see two New Orleans Natives (DeSalvo and Manning) giving high-impact speeches at the conference.

HIMSS ’16 New Y– err, Las Vegas.