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HIMSS plays passive-aggressive on meaningful use rules

Regular maintenance and proper care cut your risks for cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Meaningful use tells doctors and hospitals to get the data needed to manage your maintenance, and start using it.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

Some reporters said that the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) reacted "kindly" to last week's release of meaningful use regulations, but a close look at its statement indicates a more passive-aggressive tone.

One reason is that the rules still must go through a 60-day comment period before going final. They can still be twisted to fit HIMSS' preferences.

And it's clear those preferences are still for industry to get a checklist of features it can control, not an amorphous expectation of customers getting value from systems, in order to get a government check.

HIMSS is being joined in this by its biggest customers, the American Hospital Association, which offered a statement this week that was much more forthright in its criticism.

"The proposed definition of 'meaningful use' is a worthy goal, but it should be a destination point, not a starting point," the statement says. Hospitals would like to get paid for what they have already done, not prove its value.

At a webinar for members yesterday, HIMSS seemed to be using the complexity of the rules as a starting point for selling more seminar services. That's its business, breaking down technology implementation into simple, actionable steps.

Fact is meaningful use is not that complicated. You need to collect relevant data, and use that data to drive change.

On The Daily Showthis week, food advocate Michael Pollan said the best thing about the health reform bill is that it changes incentives. If everyone is in the insurance pool, if companies can no longer pick-and-choose among risks, they have an incentive to keep people healthy, because that reduces their costs and increases profit.

The meaningful use rules are similar. They're not about speeds and feeds. They're not about checking off boxes. They're not even about the stimulus money.

They're about collecting the data needed to drive real change. That data is patient data, not data on procedures and payments. Learn about your patients and do what makes them well, instead of acting as a back-stop for when they get sick.

This is the heart of health reform. It's what the businesses paying the bills want. Critics call it Big Brother, a government takeover, the nanny state. But it's wellness, it's maintenance.

Is it an imposition on your liberty to follow your car owner's manual, to get the oil changed regularly, the tires rotated, to drive within limits and use your seat belt? Maybe, but your car lasts longer that way.

The same is true for your body. Regular maintenance and proper care cut your risks for cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Meaningful use tells doctors and hospitals to get the data needed to manage your maintenance, and start using it.

Hospitals would rather remain repair shops than try to manage the extended warranty. And it's easier for their suppliers to manage hospital data than patient data.

But that's not efficient.

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