Another HIMSS conference is history. The technology cart, however, may be getting ahead of the horse. Everywhere I turned, vendors touted their technology solutions to transform existing healthcare providers into ACOs. Many of these solutions tackle the worthy challenge of correlating claims data coming from payers with clinical data coming from providers, in an effort to create longitudinal records of care for any patient who walks through the provider's doors. In this way, providers will catch comorbidities they are missing today, eliminate duplicative tests, reduce readmissions, and increase patient satisfaction, all in one fell swoop.
At least, that's the theory. But wait—if the brave new technology future is at hand, why are the Pioneer ACOs petitioning CMS to ease up on demanding early results?
I think I now understand why the pioneers are freaking out.
The ACO concept only works if health information exchange between providers is mature enough to handle what the ACOs require. And I'm here to report that health information exchange still has a long way to go.
That's why, in the midst of a HIMSS packed with innovations that I will describe in future columns, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Farzad Mostashari, sees the maturation of HIE as the biggest challenge of 2013. (Mostashari views the HIE acronym as a verb and a desired state of being, rather than as only a description of HIE/HIO organizations.)
"There are technical challenges," Mostashari told a packed HIE town hall on the final day of HIMSS. "There are governance and trust challenges to information being exchanged. And there are business practices and a business case for information exchange, all of which need to be addressed in order for information to move. We intend to act on all of them this year to create a context where we get to the goal and the 'why' of all this, which is that information follows the patient wherever they need it to go, across organizational boundaries, across vendor boundaries, across geographic boundaries."