Sunday, September 27, 2009

Showcase Draws Huge Attendance

An overflow crowd gathered in the newly renamed historic Kennedy Caucus Room on Capitol Hill to attend the Steering Committee on Telehealth and Healthcare Informatics “Health Care Information Technology Showcase and NHIN Presentation”.

Opening the event on September 24th as part of National Health IT Week, Neal Neuberger Executive Director for the Institute for e-Health Policy a subsidiary of the HIMSS Foundation, welcomed everyone. He reports that the Steering Committee has held more than 130 widely attended educational sessions and healthcare technology demonstrations since 1993.

Several Members of Congress were able in these busy times on Capitol Hill to stop by the event to show their support for healthcare technology.

Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and a Senior Member of the Senate Finance Committee has been a leader in telehealth. In appreciation, the Senator was presented an award for all of his past and ongoing efforts to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare.

Senator Conrad told the crowd that he has added an amendment to the Senate Finance Committee’s reform legislation. The amendment encourages innovative care for hospitalized Medicare patients, to include the use of telehealth. The amendment directs Medicare administrators to test projects at local hospitals to allow the electronic monitoring of patients by specialists at high-quality healthcare centers.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) a member of the Senate Budget Committee stressed that a platform of health information infrastructure equals a fiscally strong country. Our country needs to take a step-by-step approach to develop a robust health information infrastructure. We must reform the underlying mechanisms of our healthcare system and expand access to health insurance to all Americans.

Allyson Y. Schwartz (D-PA) very actively involved in e-prescribing said that it is very important for providers to be able to communicate quickly with the right information at their fingertips. As Representative Schwartz pointed out, although much has been accomplished, more still needs to be done so that at the end of the day Americans will be healthier

Workforce training and development issues are high on the agenda especially in today’s economic times. Representative David Wu (D-OR) Chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology has been very active in providing ideas and effective for leadership for stimulating interest in the workforce. He relates that these issues are particularly relevant today since there are good stable jobs in the healthcare field that go begging and this means that more and more workers in the healthcare field are going to need training.

The need to provide for interoperability, provide for a highly interactive ease of use system for providers, provide for an intelligent data system, and provide a system that is able to integrate medical information is vital according to Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA) Co-Chair of the House 21st Century Health Care Caucus.

Other countries are also playing an important role in HIT. Canada is an early adopter of cutting-edge health technology, hardware, software and services according to Jean-Philippe Linteau, Senior Trade Commissioner and Commercial Counselor of the Canadian Embassy, but he wants to see even more ventures between the two countries.

According to Linteau, Canadian companies have well established track records in providing healthcare systems, leading-edge physician office systems, long term and acute care at a distance using telemedicine, and providing in-home and community care.

To address healthcare in treating people in the population that do not always receive the best healthcare, Garth Graham M.D., DHHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health talked about the “Health Information Technology for Underserved Population Initiative”. He explained that it is important to help all populations in this country have the same health expectancy even where there are disparities in the population.

According to Dr. Graham, HIT is an additional tool that can reduce racial and ethnic health disparities, however, any development and use of HIT for patients and providers needs to ensure that racial, ethnic minorities and persons with disabilities are included. To help meet the challenges, everyone has to be educated that a serious situation in the population exists plus public and private partnerships need to work and use HIT to address this issue.

One of the public-private partnerships actively involved in this field is the “National Health IT Collaborative for the Underserved” with Ruth Perot as Managing Director. The Collaborative was formed with Federal agencies and other key private sector and community based stakeholders. The goal is to bring the best HIT ideas and resources to a population that will help to lower overall costs for everyone.

The Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) a program under the Office of the National Coordinator for HIT was established to provide a mechanism for exchanging health information nationally. The NHIN Presenters at the event were introduced by Vish Sankaran, Program Director, Federal Health Architecture within the Office of the National Coordinator for HIT to demonstrate how successfully NHIN is able to work across agencies.

The Department of Defense began the NHIN presentation by demonstrating how wounded warriors and veterans health records can be maintained throughout the continuity of care and how effectively information will be exchanged with both civilian and federal partners by using the NHIN infrastructure.

Moving information through the system was well demonstrated by SSA to show how the disability determination process can work to help the disabled individual. SSA and MedVirginia were the first organizations to share live data as NHIN pilot partners. They demonstrated how access to electronic health records dramatically speeds the process for collecting the evidence required to make disability determinations.

CDC, state health organizations and other private entities demonstrated the importance of being able to report and enhance public healthcare data using NHIN-enabled health information exchange. This is especially important today with H1N1 surveillance needed and also for biosurveillance purposes if there are problems in the U.S.

The Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG®) is an initiative overseen by the National Cancer Institute Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology. The need for caBIG® and CONNECT is vital to effectively link cancer research information. Efficient and effective use of biomedical data is essential to understanding the molecular processes that underlie cancer to enable better interventions.

The Technology Showcase featured more than 30 tabletop displays by government, industry, and academia, trade associations, and leading research organizations to demonstrate their latest advances toward an “e-enabled” healthcare system.

Many of the products and services displayed involved work on biosurveillance, battlefield medical information systems, robotic systems, chronic care and disease management tools, electronic health records, handheld devices, imaging patient identification, tracking systems, helping minorities, and providing telemedicine technologies to rural areas.

HIMSS and their Institute for e-Health Policy manage the Capitol Hill HIT briefing series. For more information, contact Neal Neuberger, Executive Director, for the Institute at or go to