HIMSS16 – Quality & Technology: The News from CMS & ONC

HIMSS16 – Quality & Technology: The News from CMS & ONC

Last week at HIMSS16, U.S. Government officials had a very visible and accessible presence.  Sylvia Burwell – Secretary of Health & Human Services, Karen DeSalvo – National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and Acting Assistant Secretary for Health & Human Services, and Andy Slavitt – Acting Administrator for Medicare and Medicaid services, were all on hand.   They all had an active presence in sessions and toured parts of the Exhibit Hall floor.  Between press releases, they were delivering important information about initiatives impacting quality and technology in healthcare.

Here is a quick synopsis of some of the recent announcements and common themes. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) that has bipartisan support is already showing improvements in healthcare organizations, jumping on the value-based payment reform models, and moving from the traditional fee-for-service models.


Alternate payment models (APMs) are gaining traction and are meeting the initial thresholds set out by CMS administration. APM programs such as Accountable Care Organizations (ACO), bundled payment programs, and Comprehensive Primary Care Initiative (CPCI) are seeing growth across the country. Here are some of the recent statistics:

Goals outlined:

  • 30% of traditional FFS would go to APM programs by end of 2016
  • 50% of payments tied to APM programs by 2018

Accountable Care Organizations represented 20% in 2014 and, as of January 2016, ACOs are already at 30% – ahead of the initial goals set!

Impact when we focus on quality versus quantity?

  • 17% reduction in hospital acquired conditions, $20 billion saved in costs


Andy Slavitt and Karen DeSalvo teamed up again to announce 90% matching funds from CMS for Medicaid providers to connect to health information exchange (HIE’s). The goal is to increase HIE’s and increase interoperability to the full continuum of health care providers, such as long-term care, behavioral health providers, and substance abuse treatment centers. 72 million patients will be impacted by this initiative, increasing the adoption of technology in these types of health care organizations that have been slower to adopt.

Once again, we heard a re-commitment to make Electronic Medical Records a better tool for providers and patients. Initially, it was merely about adoption and, in my mind, a limited focus on making it work for the healthcare provider and patients. Both EMR vendors and some of the largest healthcare systems in our country are pledging to this effort to ensure patients can access their data easily and information can be shared easily between all healthcare providers regardless of which system they use. Andy Slavitt went on to say in his presentation at HIMSS, “The companies that live up to their commitments here will be recognized and applauded… And I strongly encourage you to recognize those that don’t.”

Personally, I was impressed at how accessible this team was.  Not only did I make a point to get a T-shirt into the hands of Karen DeSalvo, but she approached me later at an event to ask me a bit about my story, my work and what advice I would give to young women starting out in HealthIT.

In a world where our work is often policy-driven, we live with the tensions between “the way it has always been done,” government regulations & initiatives to move the industry forward, and providers who, at their core, really just want to care for their patients.  It was really refreshing to engage with a government team that was accessible, attentive, and caring.








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