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Interoperability rule will be in HIMSS spotlight -- again

At HIMSS 2020, federal regulators' proposed interoperability rule will be the talk of the conference, whether it's been finalized or not.

The proposed interoperability rule unveiled by federal regulators at last year's HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition will again take center stage.

The proposed rule showed a commitment by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to make it easier for patients to access their health data. Finalization was expected in November 2019, but it has been under review at the Office of Management and Budget since October.

That could change in early March, when HIMSS 2020 is set to convene in Orlando, Fla. Donald Rucker, the national coordinator for health IT, said during a meeting of the Health IT Advisory Committee in mid-February that he expects the interoperability rule will be finalized "relatively soon," despite growing controversy over patient privacy.

Arielle TrzcinskiArielle Trzcinski

Forrester Research analyst Arielle Trzcinski, who plans to be in attendance, said the proposed rules will be a major talking point at HIMSS 2020 and will give vendors, such as EHR vendors Cerner and Epic and tech giants such as Google and Amazon, an opportunity to explain how they'll help health systems and providers adhere to the new regulation.

'Data is king'

Trzcinski said she expects the data sharing rule to be top of mind for the 45,000 healthcare IT executives attending HIMSS 2020.

"It's going to be talked about whether it's released or not," Trzcinski said. "It's more a question of whether it's going to be, 'Let's talk about the specifics of the final rule and how they impact you as a healthcare organization,' or if it's going to be, 'There is still this sense of uncertainty around it so here is how you could prepare for it if it does take the form we think it's going to take.'"

Karen GroppeKaren Groppe

Karen Groppe, HIMSS senior director of strategic communications, said attendees will have plenty of representatives from federal agencies, including ONC and CMS, to talk to about the proposed interoperability rule.

"The people that are coming to this conference, they are important leaders, and the federal agencies want to engage," Groppe said.

The proposed interoperability rule will require healthcare organizations to share data with patients via standardized APIs. As patients gain greater access to their healthcare data, Trzcinski said healthcare organizations will need a "digital front door strategy" that focuses both on making patient data insightful and actionable, as well as improving the patient experience.

Data will play a central role in the shift to value-based care, where the model of reimbursement relies on patient outcomes, according to Trzcinski.

Data is king in healthcare.
Arielle TrzcinskiAnalyst, Forrester Research

At HIMSS 2020, Trzcinski said she expects to see data playing a big role as several startups that commercialize consumer behavior data will be on the exhibit floor. This kind of data is underutilized in healthcare and is needed to better understand how to build loyalty with patients, she said.

"As we look towards not only the consumerization of healthcare and giving individuals the power to own their healthcare data and better understand their own health so they can make better, informed decisions, we also on the business side of this have to think about the shift towards value-based care," she said. "If we don't have the data on these individuals, we can't appropriately understand the potential health risks of those individuals and intervene to help drive improved outcomes or get them the right care at the right time. It all comes down to data. Data is king in healthcare."

Cybersecurity at HIMSS 2020

Groppe said cybersecurity will also be a prevalent topic at HIMSS 2020.

Anahi SantiagoAnahi Santiago

Indeed, Anahi Santiago, CISO at Delaware-based ChristianaCare and a speaker at the conference, said the HIMSS 2020 conference has expanded its cybersecurity tracks over the years. At this year's conference, Santiago expects health systems and providers will provide a glimpse into their cybersecurity strategies.

Santiago's talk will focus on email protection and awareness, one of her top priorities at ChristianaCare this year. She described education and awareness as the most important tools a cybersecurity professional can have to protect their organizations.

"It's really important that we focus on email as a primary attack vector and that we ensure we're doing the most we can with that particular threat to lower the changes of being not only targeted, but actually infiltrated," Santiago said.

Next Steps

COVID-19 delays enforcement of federal interoperability rules

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