Industry trade group points out potential stories in health information technology

About Debra Gordon

Debra Gordon, M.S., is AHCJ’s health information technology topic leader. She has more than 30 years of experience in the health care world, including a decade as a newspaper reporter covering medicine, and 22 years as a freelance medical writer.

Karen Groppe, senior director of corporate communications the Healthcare Information and Management System Society (HIMSS)

Karen Groppe

If you cover anything about health information technology (HIT), then you should know about Karen Groppe, senior director of corporate communications the Healthcare Information and Management System Society (HIMSS), the country’s leading HIT trade group.

I interviewed Groppe about stories journalists should be pursuing in HIT and how HIMSS can help.

She listed four topics that should take you through 2021 and beyond.

  • Even though telehealth has been around “forever,” Groppe said, it took a pandemic for it to (finally!) gain widespread acceptance. “It’s like everyone is just discovering it now.” Broader reimbursement, improved technology, and strong patient and physician acceptance means telehealth is here to stay. “We’ve heard from a lot of our members that now ‘people get it,’” she said,
  • COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Groppe expects HIT will play a major role in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, particularly since the first vaccines likely to be approved require two shots. Health information technology, she said, will be vital to tracking who received the first shot, sending reminders for the second, and tracing receipt of the second vaccine. It will also be critical to identify individuals for the various phases of vaccination; i.e., those at high risk, and pinpointing geographic areas where the virus is particularly rampant for targeted distribution.
  • The pandemic clearly demonstrated the lack of IT interoperability between health care systems. “I think with the distribution of the vaccine, we’re going to find out how important interoperability really is and (how great) the need for it,” she said. That means global standards for interoperability, which also means a national patient ID. The House passed legislation in August overturning a ban on the use of federal funds to create a national patient ID but the bill remains stalled in the Senate.
    Meanwhile, last month the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT  extended the time for compliance with legislation that requires the use of application programming interfaces (APIs) to enhance interoperability and improve patient access to their records.
  • “Health care is the number one target for cybersecurity incidents,” Groppe said. “We’re seeing it globally.” The risk is not just lost data and frozen systems; it’s patient lives. In September, a patient in Germany died when she had to be transferred to a hospital 19 miles away because the facility where she required emergency care had been hacked.

Groppe can connect you with experts, arrange for complementary memberships and attendance at live and virtual meetings, and invite you to the occasional small-group “gaggles” she holds with reporters.

“We have over 83,000 members globally from CEOs of large health care organizations down to nursing informatics specialists,” she said. “There’s nothing we can’t be quick to respond to.” Contact Groppe at Karen.groppe@HIMSS.org or 312-965-7898.

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