Thinking more about Interconnected HIT, Courtesy of The Joint Commission

Chicago can get really really cold.

I found this out when I braved what I would call a challenging travel experience, along with several other HIT experts, to attend a new Joint Commission Public Policy Roundtable, addressing the creation of a nationally interconnected Health Information Technology System.

It was both worth the effort and I left welcoming the Joint Commission’s leadership and support. And since I originally hail from Phoenix, Arizona, I am apt to exaggerate the harshness of winter travel, anyway.

If you are not familiar with The Joint Commission, it is an organization with an important mission and positioned to “Help Health Care Organizations Help Patients.” I’ve encountered The Joint Commission’s work in my Informatics leadership role and it has definitely shaped improvements in quality, safety, and affordability of care. There is a lot of respect there.

Convening a roundtable like this is part of a larger process that includes an expert panel, the creation of a white paper, and conferences to influence policy. This roundtable covered a nice cross section of the HIT landscape, with sections on:

  • Realizing the Benefits of HIT
  • Creating Incentives to Spur HIT Adoption
  • Overcoming Implementation Barriers
  • Achieving Interoperability

Further, the attendees represented a core group of some of the most dedicated individuals to furthering a better health care system through technology. What was useful for me was the fact that most of the experts talking about HIT are from institutions which have viable PHR’s, or are working to build them. These are groups that understand the realistic promise in this area.

The most striking pieces of data to me were around adoption of HIT by physician practices, still in a range that we find disheartening – 14% by one definition, and by another, even lower at 4%. While patient centered HIT doesn’t require an EHR, it’s certainly easier to support it with an EHR. There was also an excellent overview by Dr. David Blumenthal from Massachusetts General Hospital of the different factors supportive of HIT adoption in different countries – everything from public support, to the presence of certified products, to peer support.

In terms of input I provided, it was to keep the patient at the center of the discussions, to promote patient adoption of HIT as well as physician adoption of HIT, and that transformation using HIT is really an element of an organization’s continuous improvement strategy. HIT doesn’t make this happen, but it makes improvement happen much more beneficially.

How did I leave this roundtable? Overall, very enthusiastically.

On the way to the airport from the meeting, I was able to share a ride with Don Detmer, MD, who is to me something of an Informatics hero, and a person who I believe has even more energy than I do. Don talked about the idea that there is a role for everyone to play, and we shouldn’t get seduced by the concept that there is one stakeholder responsible for forward movement. This is really important for us on the PCHIT initiative as we take our experience and put together some key attributes in our Personas work (coming soon). The other thing he did was recount some of his experience to me, which had a common thread throughout – the work of an inspired leader changed attitudes and then behavior to a different status quo.

I think we should look forward to the publication of the Joint Commission’s white paper on Creating a Nationally Interconnected Health Information Technology System and I am glad that this organization is applying resources to supporting our health system in this way.


[…] delivery models. In a recent trek to Chicago to spend time as a guest of The Joint Commission (see: Thinking more about Interconnected HIT, Courtesy of The Joint Commission), I worked with an incredible group of people to characterize our nation’s gap and compare it […]

Ted Eytan, MD