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HIMSS 2016 PR Prep: Freelancer Ken Terry offers his hot news tips, pitching advice

HIMSS 2016 PR Prep: Freelancer Ken Terry offers his hot news tips, pitching advice

A rare keynote by the HHS Secretary, Sylvia Burwell, kicks off the Health Information Management Systems Society’s 2016 conference and exhibition in Las Vegas next week, followed by what could be an eventful town hall session led by Acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt (pictured above) and Karen DeSalvo, M.D., the national health IT coordinator. These often feature healthcare CIOs and other IT staffers questioning past, present and future policy moves that affect their daily administration of patient data.

What will they be announcing or at least discussing? The smart money – this is Vegas after all – is betting on a meaningful use replacement that could be rolled out over the next few years in an orderly transition. Only the federal policy architects drafting these rules truly know what’s going on, but we’ve got our ear to the ground.

08fd58fWe asked veteran healthcare writer Ken Terry (pictured at left), whose health IT reportage shows up in numerous outlets including, Medical Economics and, what HIMSS reality show plotlines he’ll be following at the 2016 show. As in our other HIMSS16 preview pieces, we also asked Ken what, for his purposes, comprises a usable article pitch.

MSLGROUP: Every HIMSS has its big story, what do you think is this year’s big topic, the big story and why do you feel that way?

Ken Terry: A larger version of what we’ve seen the last couple years: The emphasis on population health management. The entire industry is moving toward value-based reimbursement. I think there’s an understanding that EHRs and other health IT tools are going to have to support providers in that endeavor.

It’s interesting that you didn’t say “meaningful use.” What’s your take on where meaningful use is headed?

Since the final rule on stage 2 and changes in stage 3 requirements, I think that CMS has signaled that they’re planning to combine meaningful use with [Physician Quality Reporting System] PQRS and value-based modifier into a new pay-for-performance program called the Merit Based Incentive Program, or MIPS, that takes effect in 2019. Some observers believe that the actual performance measurement for that program will start next year, usually there’s a two-year lookback period in CMS programs. Although it might appear on the surface that meaningful use is dead, actually it’s about to be reborn in a different guise.

What do you think will be the impact of the ONC’s 10-year interoperability plan, if any? Or is it just stating the obvious? Is it pie in the sky? What’s your take on that?

I think it’s basically a [backside]-covering operation because Congress has been so insistent that healthcare become interoperable. [Laughs.]

Actually, ONC has limited control over when and how that’s going to happen. That’s something that really is going to occur in the marketplace. That’s one of the intentions of meaningful use — CMS is requiring interoperability to meet some of the criteria but that interoperability is only partially here. And the health information exchange, whether it’s through an HIE or through Direct messaging, right now is largely at the level of document exchange, which is not terribly useful in patient care.

I think a lot of progress is being made in some areas, such as establishing the identity of patients, patient matching, making it easier to exchange [Consolidated-Clinical Document Architecture] CCDAs, but the real breakthrough will come when the people working on [Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources] FHIR actually hit pay dirt. But from the latest that I’ve been able to tell from talking to the people leading that effort [is that] we’re still 3-5 years away. It’s really becoming a widespread reality in healthcare but there are just too many details to work out; it’s a huge ship to turn around.

What’s the one thing that you like to do or see in Vegas during the one free evening you might get?

Well, I probably won’t gamble because that’s not my thing. Maybe I’ll go see a floor show.

Peyton Manning, what health IT insights do you hope to glean from him?

Actually, I think he may be able to offer pretty good insight, which is sort of along the lines of what Wayne Gretzky said years ago about skating not where the puck is but where it’s going to be. I think that’s something that people really need to hear. Of course, the same thing is true in football with passing. Health IT is such a moving target that I think people really have to start thinking in terms of 3-5 years out and where it’s going to be at that point.

What’s your number one tip for a vendor to persuade you to take a meeting?

They have to have an important story to tell and it would be helpful if they had clients along so I could find out how their technology is being used in the real world.

MSLGROUP looks forward to attending HIMSS 2016. If you will be attending and would like to talk with us about conference planning and PR activities, or would like to meet during the show, feel free to contact Doug Russell at 781-684-0770 or

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