RHIOs Emerging From Coma

A subtle but profound shift is occurring in the world of RHIOs/HIEs (Regional Health Information Organizations/Health Information Exchanges).

…and the title of the eHealth Initiative’s Sixth Annual Survey of Health Information Exchange says it all:

Migrating Toward Meaningful Use

What’s happening here?

In the past, RHIOs have defined their raison d’etre (reason for being) fairly simply: exchanging health information among local health care stakeholders.

They are recognizing that the exchange of health information is necessary, but not sufficient for health system improvement and change.

This is the same cat/dog dialogue that was catalyzed  by HITECH Act Legislation.  Should the definition of “meaningful use” of certified EHR technology:

  • Emphasize “use” –  the simple adoption and use of technology (the cat POV)
  • Emphasize “meaningful” —  improvements in outcomes, quality improvements, and cost reductions that are enabled by implementation of multiple, modular technologies — not just EMR 1.0 (the dog POV)

Early direction from the HIT Policy Committee has been very clear and positive. Dr. David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, charted the course in this June interview with the Wall Street Journal:

WSJ: Critics contend that the system is tilted toward older technologies and won’t allow for much innovation.

Dr. Blumenthal: The last thing we want to do is inhibit innovation in this very young industry. There are contending priorities. There is a strong desire to get the technology to the physician and have it used in doctors’ offices. There’s also the concern that we’ll put the industry in a straightjacket (by endorsing only existing equipment).

We’ll try to resolve these issues by focusing on performance rather than any specific technology. We’ll say to the industry and providers of care: We don’t care how you accomplish critical tasks, so long as you do so with electronic technology.

If someone produces the equivalent of an Apple iPhone, where the doctor selects certain applications, that’s fine — so long as it works.

Dr. Blumenthal — thank you for the inspired leadership you are demonstrating!

RHIO’s/HIEs are recognizing they can and must contribute to “meaningful use”.  Subtle, and profound.

More on the important topic later…for now simply wanted to flag this significant, shifting trend.