What a year 2013 turned out to be! The Hello Health development team released EIGHT platform updates over the course of the year, each in response to the feedback and needs of our customers. Hello Health’s interactive relationship with our users makes it possible for us to achieve this continuous improvement. It’s easy to stay excited in this field – new opportunities to instigate innovation arise every day. As we pack away our holiday decorations, we here at Hello Health are excited to embark on the journey of Health IT that lays before us in 2014. But before we look forward, let’s hit the highlights of what went on around the industry last year.
Patient Engagement reached an all-time high in 2013 due a variety of factors, from HIPAA reforms to the Blue Button Initiative. Patients have been empowered to take control of their own health care and because of advances in electronic health record (EHR) technology, physicians are driven to provide them the tools to do so. As the Director of the Office of Consumer eHealth at ONC, Lygeia Ricciardi, noted in September, “With more than half of Americans using smart phones today, and an abundance of popular health apps and tools, consumers are becoming an undeniable part of the equation for better health and healthcare through health information technology.”
That’s great to hear, and it means only good things for primary care physicians currently seeking technology solutions that patients will find helpful and easy to use. The necessity of qualifying for Meaningful Use is becoming more apparent as time marches on to those practices that have yet to get started. The good news? Recent concerns around Health IT policy lead the Senate to recommend an extension in the Meaningful Use incentive program. So, in December, the ONC and CMS adjusted the timelines, and doctors around the country heaved a collective sigh of relief! Deadlines for Stage 2 Meaningful Use will be extended through 2016. Many practitioners are no doubt glad to have some breathing room, but be warned: 2016 will be here sooner than we think! Choosing a platform now that will flex and grow with your practice over time is essential to meet the required standards. If you have even a moderate percentage of Medicare patients, the time is now.
More Rules & Regs
The advances in IT policy last year were fast and furious. A few more of considerable note: In January, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a final rule to expand and update HIPAA provisions to strengthen the privacy and protection for individuals’ health information. The summer saw a resolution to long-term patient safety discussions (you can read our own post on safety from last year here) when the ONC released its final Health IT Patient Safety Action and Surveillance Plan in July. And, right under the wire, in December came the introduction of HR 3750, a bill created to encourage the use of telehealth tools and “crafted to interplay with other legislative proposals in Congress that also seek to further innovation in the telehealth field.” We follow the regulatory twists and turns daily. Stay informed about what’s going on in 2014 by keeping up with Hello Health on Twitter and Facebook.
Some of the most notable HIT developments last year were the high profile personnel changes on the national level. After two years, Farzad Mostashari stepped down from his position as National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in August. The announcement came as quite a surprise, but Mostashari left with only the wish that Health IT would continue to prosper and encouraged all those working in the field to “stay the way.” In December it was announced that Karen DeSalvo, former health commissioner for the city of New Orleans, will take over as Coordinator in January 2014. DeSalvo is credited with increasing the use of health IT within the city’s policy development, public health initiatives, and emergency preparedness, and was instrumental in laying down HIT as a foundation for New Orleans’ health system’s redesign following Hurricane Katrina. Given her history, she is an exciting prospect as the new leader of Health IT.
Hello, New Year
Having experienced so much growth and progress in our own company last year, we look forward to the new year with great expectations. On the horizon for Hello Health in 2014 are new offerings in billing, revenue cycle management, and more enhancements to our state-of-the-art electronic health record and patient portal (including some neat new features to our mobile applications). To say we’re excited would be an understatement. Again, we thrive because of the practices that work with us daily to continuously enhance and improve the Hello Health platform. Thank you, and Happy New Year.