13 Healthcare IT Highlights from HIMSS13

The annual Health Information and Management Systems Society conference brings together vendors, healthcare executives, patient advocates, policymakers and even former U.S. presidents. Here are 13 key stories from HIMSS13.

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The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's HIMSS13 conference showcased the latest healthcare IT happenings from vendors, hospital customers government agencies and nonprofit organizations. This year, roughly 35,000 attendees, plus another 14,000 exhibitors from more than 1,100 companies, made the trip to New Orleans. They heard from high-profile keynote speakers such as former President Bill Clinton, political strategists James Carville and Karl Rove and Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and wireless health advocate who used the same portable device he demonstrated during his talk to diagnose a woman on his flight home with an abnormal heart rhythm. Here are 13 health IT innovations, announcements and highlights from HIMSS13.

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Former President Bill Clinton
Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action

Clinton's keynote focused on a number of public health topics, ranging from worldwide healthcare disparities to the pediatric obesity epidemic in the United States. Clinton also said health IT will help clinicians better treat the nation's growing population of baby boomers.

At HIMSS13 the organization announced the new Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action, an extension of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) that the former president formed in 2005. HIMSS joined CGI in September 2012 to advance its work on its own Healthcare Transformation Project, which brings senior healthcare leaders together, through year-round events, research and networking, to commit to action plans that will improve healthcare for all.

More: Clinton Calls for Healthcare Price Transparency, Embracing IT to Cut Costs

CommonWell Health Alliance
CommonWell Health Alliance

Interoperability has always been a major buzzword at the HIMSS conference. Getting electronic health record systems to exchange patient data is widely cited as a key goal in improving patient care while lowering healthcare costs. This year, several of the largest EHR vendors—Cerner, McKesson, RelayHealth, athenahealth, Allscripts and Greenway—announced the CommonWell Health Alliance, a collaborative effort to support universal access to health data through seamless interoperability. The group will promote and certify a national infrastructure with common standards and policies. Over the next several months, we may see other EHR companies joining the alliance—but not Epic Systems, which, depending on whom you ask, either said "No" or was never invited. Stay tuned.

Meaningful Use Stage 2
Meaningful Use Stage 2

The Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs provide incentive payments to hospitals and physicians that demonstrate the meaningful use of EHR technology. With stage 2 of meaningful use set to begin in 2014, it was not surprisingly a major topic at HIMSS13.

One major component of stage 2 is the collection of data on clinical quality measures. This is so physicians and hospitals can identify ways to better use health IT to improve patient safety, reduce medical errors, improve care coordination and engage patient in their own care.

One vendor looking to make its mark here is Hewlett-Packard. At HIMSS13 HP demonstrated Autonomy IDOL, which is designed to mine unstructured data to reveal patterns and relationships in clinical data.

The Transition to ICD-10
The Transition to ICD-10

The International Classification of Diseases represents the universal set of codes used by health care professionals when classifying clinical signs, symptoms and diseases. ICD is published by the World Health Organization and used throughout the world. The current version used in the United States, ICD-9, dates back to 1979, but next October every entity covered by HIPAA must transition to ICD-10. While ICD-9 codes are five numeric digits, ICD-10 codes are seven alphanumeric characters. The transition to ICD-10 isn't easy—it impacts an organization in many ways, from coding to billing to data warehousing—and it's already been delayed once, but at HIMSS13 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the Oct. 1, 2014 deadline won't be moved again.

Patient Engagement
Patient Engagement

The e-patient movement, with the "e" referring to engaged, empowered patients, grows more each year. Some wear self-tracking fitness gadgets. Others demand access to their personal health records. Discussions patient engagement's growing importance could be heard all over HIMSS13, with members of the Society for Participatory Medicine joining the National eHealth Collaborative, HIMSS, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and even former President Clinton in highlighting the need to provide patients with their own health data so that they can better manage their own health. Thanks to the #patientengagement and #epatient hashtags, these conversations continue even though the conference is over.

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Qualcomm Life and WebMD Partnership
Qualcomm Life and WebMD

More and more people wear digital pedometers and other fitness trackers when they exercise. A newly minted Qualcomm Life-WebMD partnership promises to let these health-conscious consumers access and manage wireless health data from their wide array of fitness, wellness and medical devices. The Qualcomm Life 2net Platform will be integrated with WebMD to provide consumers and physicians with a connected health experience. Making this biometric data available, actionable and relevant to consumers will help them more proactively manage their health and fitness.

The Virtual Physician Assistant
The Virtual Physician Assistant

Clintegrity 360 is a new computer-assisted clinical documentation improvement and coding tool from Nuance Healthcare, a division of Nuance Communications. More than 450,000 physicians and 10,000 healthcare facilities worldwide use Nuance clinical documentation and analytics technology to support the physician in any clinical workflow and on any device, the company says.

Powered by clinical language understanding, a form of natural language processing, Clintegrity 360 optimizes patient care while letting clinicians create complete, compliant clinical documentation at the point of care within their EHR workflow.

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Secure Prescription Printing
Secure Prescription Printing

Data security in the healthcare industry has moved beyond just protecting a hospital's devices, documents or patient data. Cyberattacks and security threats are becoming more sophisticated. The HP Prescription Printing Security Solution offers a cost-effective alternative to pre-printed prescription forms for doctors and hospitals. It offers a printed copy-void pantograph, which reveals the word "COPY" when a prescription has been photocopied; a customizable micro-print font for authentication, and an anti-counterfeiting warning box to validate an original copy of a prescription. In addition to data security, this technology could help prevent prescription fraud.

ViSi Mobile by Sotera Wireless
ViSi Mobile by Sotera Wireless

The ViSi Mobile is an FDA-approved system that monitors a patient's heart rate, electrocardiogram (ECG), blood pressure, blood oxygenation level, respiration rate and skin temperature. The device, worn on the wrist, provides monitoring to the same level of accuracy typically found in intensive care units without restricting a patient's mobility.

Keynote speaker Dr. Eric Topol demonstrated the ViSi Mobile device on stage during his keynote. In addition, Salt Lake City-based hospital system Intermountain Healthcare featured ViSi Mobile at its HIMSS13 expo hall booth. In this deployment, ViSi Mobile wirelessly transmits patient vital sign data for remote viewing and notification, as well as to the EHR interface.

Genomic Medicine
Genomic Medicine

Topol, a professor of genomics at the Scripps Research Institute, also discussed how genomic medicine is posed to revolutionize healthcare. We've seen the cost of human genome sequencing come down dramatically, from $3 billion in the Clinton administration to about $1,000 today. That makes it much easier to incorporate genome information into "targeted therapies," or treatment plans that target specific genetic defects and mutations. One such example, Topol says, is effectively combating cancer in young patients.

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Single Sign-On
Single Sign-On

In most healthcare settings, many people need to access patient data that's housed in many clinical applications. Single sign-on tools improve clinical workflow efficiency while maintaining secure access to patient information. At HIMSS13, vendors such as Imprivata, HealthCast and Oracle demonstrated enterprise SSO for the healthcare environment.

It doesn't stop there, though. SSO combined with authentication management lets clinicians log in without clicking a button. Authentication methods vary tremendously and can include smart cards, active and passive proximity cards, finger biometrics, phone-based authentication, one-time passwords and USB tokens. Such robust security helps physicians and hospitals overcome the IT barriers related to the e-prescribing of controlled substances, which by law requires more stringent security than other medications.

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Windows 8 Tablet PCs
Windows 8 Tablet PCs

Intel, Microsoft, and PC manufacturers were showcasing Windows 8 tablets that they say will solve the mobility, productivity and collaboration challenges people face in hospital and practice settings. Physicians and other clinicians want to use mobile devices at the point of care, but traditional mobile devices have been difficult to use effectively. Many have been heavy or couldn't run enterprise applications. With lightweight Windows 8 tablets, physicians and nurses can effectively run enterprise-level EHR and CPOE systems without being hindered by bulky devices. Windows 8 tablets also offer all-day battery life and a variety of expansion and keyboard docking options.

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Microsoft Office 365
Microsoft Office 365

The cloud-based Microsoft Office 365 offers access to familiar Office tools Word, Excel and PowerPoint. It delivers enterprise-grade email, HD videoconferencing, screen sharing and instant messaging, too. But those aren't the only reasons healthcare organizations large and small are adopting Office 365. The package also helps hospitals and providers comply with HIPAA regulations concerning patient privacy and information security. Microsoft Office 365 for Health Organizations programmatically offers a HIPAA business associate agreement (BAA) to customers, which lets healthcare entities leverage cloud computing capabilities while managing information security. Windows Azure, Microsoft's cloud hosting platform, also offers HIPAA BAAs.