Government provides the spark but healthcare industry innovators are the true drivers of change

The government has proven to be an important catalyst in improving the healthcare industry, successfully accelerating the adoption of technology and now pushing us closer to a value-based system.

But private entities – providers, health plans and IT companies – will continue to be the drivers of change. Meaningful Use (MU) is an example of a successful federal incentive program, and while an argument can be made that the next phase, Stage 2 MU, may be too prescriptive, it won't stop the healthcare enterprise from doing what it does best – innovate. Government has provided the incentive and the private sector will step up and take the lead on creating better processes and solutions to bring the healthcare industry closer to a value-based system.

The goals and thinking behind MU – to meaningfully use electronic health records (EHRs) and improve patient care – are laudable, regardless of political preferences. We can now see the success from the early years of the program in creating a tipping point for the use of technology in managing care: In 2013, the CDC reported 78 percent of office-based physicians use EHRs, a significant jump from the 18 percent in 2001. Getting past the hurdles that brought the nation to this point in healthcare was essential.

The MU program does face some challenges ahead. Recent survey data shows that 55 percent of physicians in fact do not plan to attest for Stage 2 MU in 2015. CMS also reported in December 2014 that only 3,655 unique Medicare eligible professionals received payments for Stage 2, compared to 268,686 eligible professionals for Stage 1.

Regardless of the hurdles, a tipping point has been achieved and industry innovators will leverage this success to continue to create better solutions to achieve value-based care. Take for example the convergence that is happening between providers and health plans. Value-based care is quickly shifting the requirements and incentives for both payers and providers. The result could be a much needed shift in the way providers, health plans and the vendors who serve them have operated for the past quarter century to the great benefit of a more efficient health care system.

In 1939 with a world war looming, the United States found itself as a second tier military power with only 1,700 aircraft in its arsenal. In the spring of that year President Franklin D. Roosevelt stood on the floor of congress and called upon US manufacturing to ramp up to produce 50,000 planes per year. In a historical moment that defines the American spirit, the industrial sector effectively said, "That's impossible....but here's how we're going to do it because this is too important." It didn't happen overnight or without bumps along the way, but the private sector met FDR's "impossible" goal in less than three years, establishing the US as a military and manufacturing giant.

While value-based care, EHRs and MU do not carry the same gravity as WWII, there's an important lesson to be learned from FDR and the steel workers. Government initiatives aimed at providing high quality care more efficiently are not, in and of themselves, the solution but they can serve as a catalyst for the leaders and innovators in our industry to establish meaningful progress. For MU, there will likely be more iterative changes to meet industry concerns, like the recent CMS move to reduce the attestation period. On a parallel track the private sector will continue to focus on creative solutions, turning the government's calls for change into tangible improvements.

Andy Hurd joined MedeAnalytics in May 2013, bringing with him over 25 years of experience in healthcare IT, including product and market innovation as well as strategic partnerships. Most recently, Andy was CEO of Epocrates (NASDAQ: EPOC), which was purchased by athenahealth (NASDAQ: ATHN). Andy holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from Northern Arizona University, and he is a member of the board of directors of Ability Networks and the Cleveland Clinic Innovations Advisory Board.

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