I.T. Brought Challenges and Benefits to Healthcare in 2014

In 2014, healthcare organizations faced several new demands from industry and consumer groups. Here are just some of the challenges that providers dealt with, all while staying focused on the overall goal of using information technology to improve care:

*ICD-10 compliance. Healthcare organizations struggled to get their information systems ready for the new ICD-10 codes in 2014. A HIMSSwire story from January indicated that a survey from the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange found that all industry segments had made some progress toward meeting ICD-10 goals, but many had not gained sufficient ground to remove concern over meeting the Oct. 1, 2014 compliance deadline. Thankfully, the compliance deadline was delayed in April to Oct. 1, 2015.

*New industry guidelines. 2014 also brought healthcare organizations new industry guidelines with which they had to contend. In April, WEDI and EHNAC announced they would launch a practice management accreditation program. According to an April HIMSSwire story, “the initiative will ensure that vendors are offering systems that offer the functional requirements that practices need. In addition, the program will confirm that the systems comply with HIPAA privacy, security and transactions processing rules, as well as Affordable Care Act requirements.”

The AMA also developed EHR usability guidelines in 2014. The set of eight guidelines were designed to help resolve challenges physicians were having with EHRs. According to a September HIMSSwire story, AMA officials said that the guidelines are “essential to better understand the cognitive needs of physicians and how EHR products can meet them, identify evidence that outlines the benefit tools that support decision-making and explore how EHRs influence the patient encounter."

*The inclusion of mental health data. Mental health data began to be accepted into overall clinical data in 2014. For example, Otsuka America Pharmaceutical Inc., IBM Corp. and South Florida Behavioral Health Inc. began using I.T. to coordinate the care of mental health patients. According to a July HIMSSwire story, “it is expected that better coordination will, in turn, facilitate better utilization of resources and increased care coordination across both clinical and social programs settings, while also enhancing opportunities for more patient engagement in the development and implementation of care management plans.”

The IOM also weighed in on the importance of including behavioral health data in EHRs in 2014. Its “Capturing Social and Behavioral Domains in Electronic Health Records: Phase 1” report indicated how such information could improve healthcare and which specific data elements could and should be included in an EHR. According to a citation of the report in an  April HIMSSwire story, “integrating social and behavioral determinates of health into EHRs could allow providers and public health agencies to better describe and monitor patterns of health and outcomes of care for the entire population."

*Consumer-driven technology. Consumers continued to demand healthcare organizations use new technologies and accept data from outside sources in 2014. Several large provider organizations were successful in 2014 in their pilot programs of using smart-phone based apps to help patients with cancer and cardiac issues. Also, the further use of telemedicine to support the ongoing care of patients was the subject of two HIMSSwire stories in July and September.

*Big data management. With many new regulations, data and technologies to contend with in 2014, big data management became a hot topic throughout the year. Many HIEs made progress with their data exchange goals, but still needed more funding to complete their work, according to a January HIMSSwire story that cited a survey from Black Book Ranking: “Although use of health information exchanges (HIEs) grew 69% over the past year, 72% of users believe that by 2017 only 10 of the more than 220 existing exchanges will be functioning without further assistance.”