As 2011 opens, the word “remodel” seems to best sum up what is ahead in health IT. Remodel means to reconstruct, to make over. In many ways, this is the work underway, and the early results of the remodeling will begin to appear in 2011.

In home or office remodeling, significant time is spent in the months prior to the planned work. Time is spent to:

  • Draw up the plans
  • Gain agreement on final designs
  • Select contractors and suppliers
  • Get everyone ready for the changes about to happen
  • Ensure all specifications can be met

On a grander scale, Health IT experienced some of the same activities – getting prepared and ready for the work ahead to meet the Meaningful Use requirements.

What is being remodeled? Many elements fall into the remodeling category – from core IT infrastructure to supporting workflows to enabling software applications. Some key health IT remodeling scheduled to unfold in 2011 includes:

  • New regulations.  Many new regulations are now in effect and more are to come. They center on Meaningful Use, healthcare standards, and EHR certification criteria and expand to new guidelines and penalties on patient data security.
  • New certifying organizations. CCHIT used to be the only certifying organization, and now there are several  approved by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC). The complete list can be found on the ONC-Authorized Testing and Certification Bodies web page, but – in addition to CCHIT – they include ICSA Labs, SLI Global Solutions, Drummond Group, Inc., and InfoGard Laboratories, Inc.
  • New IT infrastructure.  IT infrastructure cannot be viewed as a commodity or “just plumbing” any more. IT infrastructure will be what supports the new EHR connectivity and patient data exchange requirements. The right IT infrastructure needs to be in place for health care providers to integrate internal applications and enable connections outside the four walls to physician practices, pharmacies, reporting agencies, health information exchanges (HIEs), and the list will grow.
  • New enabling software applications. EHRs and other applications will be required to be used in 2011, if your organization is pursuing the first year of eligibility for incentive payments. Using a certified EHR is a must, while others may be needed to support the overall data flow requirements to exchange and collect patient data.
  • New timeline. Starting January 3, 2011, the EHR incentive program registration process begins for eligible hospitals and Eligible Professionals. To be considered, registration for the Medicare and/or Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs must occur according to CMS guidelines. This is an important step in the process to demonstrate Meaningful Use of an electronic health record system.
  • New health care workflows.  Any new IT infrastructure or software application will require changes to existing workflows. Identifying and closing the workflow gaps and documenting the new workflows will be necessary. Constructing and training people on the new workflows will facilitate better use of the newly implemented technologies.
  • New team members.  With the changes in health IT, there are concerns about having enough people to do the work. New support structures for HITECH and Meaningful Use are put in place to facilitate the training of new people and new skills. Incorporating new team members into your organization will take some time and attention in order to enhance the overall productivity of the team’s work.

The remodeling work is well underway, and we will begin to see in 2011 what the hard work is achieving. New workflows and IT infrastructures will spring to life, and we will be able to see if the planning and direction builds a better way to deliver patient care.

In the coming year, more work will be planned and continued to meet the next levels of Meaningful Use requirements.

The clear goal is for a better health care system. Better may include more empowered patients, more efficiency, and more enhanced quality of services delivered… remodeling makes it better, right?

 

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