Sept. 16-20 was National Health IT Week,1 and it provided an opportunity for government agencies, health care providers and information technology professionals to evaluate where they stand in the continuing effort to streamline the way technology is used to deliver medical care and services.
Medical coding and medical billing are just two of the many areas where IT has become a major aspect of providing better care, making the paperwork process more efficient and improving patient outcomes. And as industry professionals convened at conferences around the country, those two disciplines were among the most discussed topics.
Government agencies and NHIT week
The federal government has been one of the biggest participants throughout the eight year history of NHIT week, and 2013 was no different. Tom Vilsack, secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, kicked off the week by highlighting his agency’s partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services. The two bodies are combining to expand funding intended to bring more advanced health care technology to rural America.2
“Digital technology holds tremendous promise for the future of health care, and we must ensure that rural Americans have access to the latest in health technology,” Vilsack said in a statement. “USDA has worked hard to expand digital tools and infrastructure for rural health providers, and as a result more communities are well-positioned to provide cutting edge health care.”
As part of its lead up to NHIT week, the Food and Drug Administration, which is a major player in the health IT sector, announced its plans to “vertically realign the agency” in an internal memo written by FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg.3 With the administration’s role in regulating health IT growing in recent years, the planned realignment could end up having a major impact on the industry going forward.
NHIT week events and issues
Washington, D.C., was the site of most of the events during NHIT week, when stakeholders in the health IT field converged on the nation’s capital to discuss relevant issues and try to spur government action on three key concepts.
This year, the three primary topics were: consistent nationwide patient data matching strategy, alignment of health care quality reporting requirements across federal programs, and consistent adoption of health IT exchange standards and implementation guidelines, according to the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives.4
By building a stronger partnership between public agencies and private companies and improving operations in areas like medical billing and coding, NHIT week is a big part of implementing and advocating for a more effective national medical infrastructure.
1 Information on NHIT week. http://healthitweek.org/
2 United States Department of Agriculture, “News Release,” Sept. 17, 2013. http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2013/09/0181.xml&contentidonly=true
3 Cheney, Kyle, Politico.com, “FDA Eyeing Major Overhaul – Rosen Firm Adds Pair of Policy Heavyweights,” Sept. 9, 2013. http://www.politico.com/politicopulse/0913/politicopulse11591.html
4 Smith, Jeffrey, “Washington Debrief: Preview of National Health IT Week,” Sept. 16, 2013. http://www.healthcare-informatics.com/article/washington-debrief-preview-national-health-it-week