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Top Healthcare IT Predictions For 2011

Health systems will tackle technology challenges including mobile, manpower, meaningful use, and other mandates.

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The new year promises to be another busy one for healthcare organizations as industry reform and transformation continue to unfold. Doctor practices and hospitals in 2011 will be focused on electronic medical record (EMR) and other systems tied to the federal government's "meaningful use" financial incentive program, as other mandates, health IT efforts, and challenges will compete for attention.

Stage 1 & 2 Meaningful Use

While bonuses will become available in 2011 for healthcare providers who comply with Stage 1 meaningful use criteria, providers have until 2012 to meet Stage 1 requirements and still be eligible for the maximum financial rewards set by the federal stimulus Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.

It's expected that most healthcare providers will need that extra time to get their systems right. So, whether they're spending 2011 just getting started, are buried in the midst of work, or finishing up on the requirements, most healthcare organizations will likely spend a good amount of time and effort in 2011 preoccupied with achieving Stage 1 meaningful use.

Also, sometime in 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is expected to complete work on setting its Stage 2 meaningful use criteria, which promises to be more complex than Stage 1 requirements, and will include rules regarding structured health data exchange and continuous quality improvement. Once the next wave of requirements is finalized in 2011 for Stage 2, healthcare CIOs will begin the balancing act of planning for the new mandates while trying to finish Stage 1 work.

Even for pioneering organizations that have successfully deployed EMRs and other key health IT in recent years, 2011 will involve tweaking and making other changes to ensure those systems comply with the HITECH Act's meaningful use requirements.

"We're not set yet for meaningful use, but we have a good amount of work underway," said Phil Fasano, executive VP and CIO at Kaiser Permanente, which in recent years completed the rollout of the nation's largest private EMR installation, an Epic-based system containing data for more than 8 million patients. Once Kaiser Permanente's Stage 1 compliance work is completed, Fasano expects "Stage 2 criteria will be even more significant and rigorous."

ICD-10 Conversion

In addition to the attention spent in 2011 trying to achieve the government's meaningful use criteria, the nation's healthcare providers will also be focused on meeting another important government mandate -- the transition for medical diagnoses and inpatient procedure coding from ICD-9 to ICD-10. Some healthcare IT pundits equate the move from ICD-9 to ICD-10 as the healthcare industry's very own Y2K technology upgrade project.

"People say that ICD-10 is like another Y2K, but the reality is that ICD-10 work requires a lot more domain knowledge than Y2K, it's not as simple as that," said Rahul Kadavakolu, director of marketing for Wipro, one of many IT services companies that are already seeing an uptick in demand for ICD-10 conversion services.

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