The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society concluded their annual conference several months ago. One of the final events was a talk delivered by National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo, and acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt, about federal efforts to support health IT.

According to DeSalvo and Slavitt, the federal government remains committed to the promise of health IT, and is willing to dedicate resources to make it a more meaningful part of the present and future healthcare landscape. DeSalvo highlighted initiatives taken by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT over the past year, including a series of listening sessions, a revised strategic focus, and improved collaboration between stakeholders.

Slavitt echoed that sentiment and identified health IT as integral to the strategic goals of CMS. He pointed to three specific tech-related areas the organization is focused on – maximizing the value of tech investments, building up a better technical infrastructure, and improving system-wide interoperability.

Interoperability is of particular importance to both healthcare providers and patients. Advances in health IT have greatly improved the collection and analysis of patient data, but the sticking point that still presents obstacles is the inability to share data across platforms or systems. This is in part by design as vendors develop systems incompatible with that of their competitors to entrench healthcare providers in the products they provide. It can also be inadvertent as legacy systems fail to keep up with technological advances.

Slavitt identified the issue of information blocking as a particular obstacle to true interoperability, and highlighted three areas in particular need of improvement – creating universal standards, building stakeholder trust, and incentivizing interoperability. To those points, he said that users rather than technology were the most significant obstacle.

The remarks of both speakers did reveal information that everyone in the HIM community should view as a positive. By all indications, Congress has bought into the promise of EHRs, and is willing to wield their power and influence to improve health IT generally. That should benefit the industry as a whole.

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