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Monday, May 3, 2010

Get out and Educate

I spent last Thursday and Friday at the Governer's Conference on Healthcare IT hosted by Deval Patrick.  It was a very interesting conference, and a bit eye opening.

I was impressed by two things at this conference:
1.  The overall desire to improve healthcare.
2.  The lack of knowledge about the status and availability of healthcare IT standards.

It appears to me that Standards do not exist in the minds of most of the attendees of this conference unless they are recognized by the Federal Government.  The lack of awareness of standards was apparent in many sessions.  Few people were aware that the basic standards used in several New England HIE initiatives were the same.  Fewer still understood what would be needed to close any gaps to make these initiatives be able to communicate with each other.

I attended one session where a consultant from Accenture reported to the attendees: "There are no standards."  I expect that sort of response from organizations that lack critical awareness of standards, but not from those that fund a CTO role in an Healthcare Standards Organization like HL7 International.  That response by the way, follows statement earlier in the day from John Halamka reporting the exact opposite.  Rest assured that I had a followup comment on that remark.

A more accurate statement would be that current regulation does NOT recognize the existing standards for many of the functions required under meaningful use.  There's a reason for that, as elaborated upon from Dr. David Blumenthal the day before.  We lack a great deal of knowledge about deployment experiences necessary to determine which standards should be selected for one.

At the whole conference, there were perhaps four people who've been involved in healthcare standards activities that I recognized.  That includes HITSP, WEDI, HL7, IHE and others.  If we want national and regional policy to make sense with regard to technology, then more of us who have some notion about what that technology can do need to be involved.  It's time to get out of the cube or the basement office and into the public eye to educate those making decisions.

The challenge for Standards organizations is that our efforts are done on a volunteer basis.  That includes marketing.  We need to rethink that.  If you want someone to use your products, you need to make appropriate investments to ensure that decision makers are aware of them and their benefits.

 My mantra for this year: Get out and educate.