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CIOs call for interoperability at HIMSS 2015

At the HIMSS 2015 health IT show in Chicago, members of CHIME say interoperability, security and analytics weigh on their minds.

CHICAGO -- As healthcare CIOs and IT professionals gathered here at the start of the giant health IT industry show, the HIMSS 2015 conference and exhibition, attendees seemed to voice a common, unified plea to the vendors they do business with:

More interoperability, please.

Some, including Utah's Intermountain Healthcare CIO and Vice President Marc Probst, called for Congress to mandate interoperability standards, even as HL7 International's Fast Health Interoperability Resources (FHIR) development project gains momentum with cross-vendor support, including from EHR market leader Epic Systems Corp.

Vendors must 'loosen the shackles'

Congressional intervention is imperative to allow providers, patients and insurers to share health data, said Martin Slominis, vice president for management information services and deputy CIO of the Wayne State University Physician Group in Troy, Mich.

'That's the only way to get the vendors to talk to each other, to loosen the shackles.'
Martin SlominisWayne State University Physician Group

"That's the only way to get the vendors to talk to each other, to loosen the shackles," Slominis told SearchHealthIT. "We want the vendors to help us solve problems, not compete with us, so data can go anywhere it could be used."

As for Probst -- a board member of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), which held its 2015 CIO Forum at HIMSS 2015 in the sprawling McCormick Place convention center -- he told SearchHealthIT "FHIR could be the standard" but Congress still needs to step in.

HIMSS 2015 -- and CHIME -- draw crowds

Some 35,000 people, representing vendors, providers, consulting firms and government agencies, are expected to swell the McCormick center's cavernous halls this week at HIMSS 2015. Meanwhile, the CHIME forum drew 600 attendees on an otherwise sleepy Sunday during which a few education sessions were held, including one on interoperability, and exhibitors prepared.

CHIME is coming off of victories after the U.S. Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT in recent months agreed to a pair of issues the group has lobbied for intensely, including:

  • Realigning the 2015 meaningful use reporting timetable from the business fiscal year to the calendar year
  • Reverting the stage 2 attestation period to 90 days from 365 days

Now, CHIME's leaders said in an interview, they will step up their push for a national patient identification matching system and keep advocating for interoperability.

Security a big worry

Meanwhile, Gary Barnes, a former CHIME board member and CIO of Medical Center Health System in Odessa, Texas, said his chief concerns in the near term are not only more interoperability, but also another common theme among CHIME members: beefing up his network's cybersecurity.

CIOs have looked on with alarm as major health data breaches have roiled the healthcare business, and smaller but worrisome breaches in their own organizations have triggered concern.

"Today, the hackers are highly organized, often state-sponsored or part of criminal enterprises," Patricia Skarulis, senior vice president and CIO of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, said in a conference hall crowded with CIOs.

Sloan Kettering's response has been a tough education campaign for its employees, in which managers use both discipline and encouragement to try to make sure that employees safeguard the privacy of patients' protected health information, she said.

It's a C-Suite job now

In an interview, Barnes said he is also preoccupied with replacing his hospital's legacy EHR system. The choice, he said, has come down to the EHR industry's two most dominant players, archrivals Epic and Cerner Corp., both of which have big presences at HIMSS and are wooing customers at the show.

The CHIME forum's theme was "Health IT Leadership 3.0: Our Journey Toward the Year 2020," meant to reflect the maturation of the CIO's role in the post-EHR era.

"I used to be a CIO in the basement. Now I'm a CIO in the C-Suite," Barnes said, using the now familiar term once confined largely to the CEO, COO and CFO.

Barnes, who has attended 25 HIMSS shows, said that in today's health IT world, "the organization is counting on us to streamline and innovate."

One of his innovations, he said, was to establish a standalone data analytics department, used both for business intelligence and health data management.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Shaun Sutner, news and features writer, or contact @SSutner on Twitter.

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