Partnering Our Mission with Public Policy Leaders

As a mission-driven non-profit, HIMSS provides decision-makers at all levels of government with educational materials and public policy recommendations on the value of health information and technology. We are pleased to welcome policy makers from around the world at this year’s HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition.

Over the past year, HIMSS has made significant achievements in reaching, educating and collaborating with the people who are influencing the next level of legislation. Tom Leary, HIMSS Vice President of Government Relations, recently discussed this success and the role of HIMSS Government Relations in transforming health. Leary will be speaking at the HIMSS20 session A Common Electronic Health Record Solution for VA and DoD.

How does the Government Relations team approach the HIMSS vision: to realize the full health potential of every human, everywhere, and mission: to reform the global health ecosystem through the power of information and technology?

As a cause-based not-for-profit, we have a responsibility to focus on the outcome of improving the use and availability of technology and information in order to improve care options for patients, providers and caregivers. That’s what we work on from a public policy perspective. It’s nonpartisan, it’s cause-based and it’s focused.

We pride ourselves on being the thought advisor for all parts of government. The Government Relations team’s mission, as part of the overall HIMSS mission, is to lead the path forward by connecting and empowering stakeholders through global public policy engagements. We make sure HIMSS is the trusted advisor on all policy matters where health information and technology advance healthcare transformation.

What has the HIMSS Government Relations team achieved on the congressional side, especially in the past several months leading up to HIMSS20?

About a year ago, we began a campaign called “Data: Elemental to Health.” We were one of four core organizations working to build a 21st century public health information superhighway. The campaign aims to drive federal investment over the next decade through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to transform today’s public health data systems into a state-of-the-art, secure and fully interoperable system. That group of four core organizations has grown to more than 90 organizations, and we were able to get $100 million passed out of the House of Representatives in appropriations, and then ultimately an initial $50 million for the beginning of a public health infrastructure improvement program. To me, that is the most significant recent accomplishment for HIMSS Government Relations because the public health community has been working for years to improve outdated technology. Each and every one of the organizations I talk to mention how HIMSS’s involvement tipped the scales to get the plan in place. HIMSS brought credibility to the discussion about the state of the public health infrastructure.

In addition, HIMSS Government Relations has developed a strong working relationship with the U.S. House of Representatives, Veterans Affairs Committee, Technology Modernization Subcommittee. When that subcommittee was established in 2018, many of the members were new to the healthcare technology space. The Government Relations team went on a one-year campaign of educating them, which resulted in active participation by HIMSS, and in particular by Lee Kim, on a conversation around privacy and data privacy. Most recently, HIMSS President and CEO Hal Wolf testified before the Technology Modernization Subcommittee on the VA’s role in advancing data privacy, data ownership and data stewardship. Hal’s testimony delved into the conversation many governments are having on data stewardship and ownership. Hal’s leadership in helping us to craft the HIMSS position has brought clarity to the discussion for us, for our members and for the committee that’s responsible for overseeing the technology improvements on behalf of veterans in the United States.

What’s the latest on the federal side?

From a U.S. federal perspective, I would say something we’re really proud of is the response to regulations on both information blocking from the Office of the National Coordinator and the CMS patient engagement and interoperability. The U.S. government recognized the importance of HIMSS as a convener and released the draft rules just prior to HIMSS19, and we expect the final rules will be out in time for robust conversations at HIMSS20.

In addition, the Government Relations team has helped to broker HIMSS’s work on the Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model (EMRAM), particularly the work the HIMSS Analytics team performed for an EMRAM review of the initial sites with the Department of Defense as they roll out their MHS Genesis program The work HIMSS is doing with pre- and post-deployment assessments of the new product is helping the Department of Defense attest to Congress and to the Defense Department senior leadership how this investment moves them closer to providing better, more interoperable care. HIMSS engagement on the EMRAM review is really an honor for the organization, as we help policy makers confirm the implementation will have a dramatic impact on care delivery for military members, families, and military retirees. We’re proud of the fact that the Government Accountability Office and Congressional Research Service both have cited HIMSS’s work with the Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model to show the Department of Defense progress on MHS Genesis.

Finally, we are very excited about the growing number of federal agencies who are Organizational Affiliates of HIMSS. We provide the link between federal agency professionals and HIMSS education resources, so the federal workforce can maintain a high level of expertise on digital health.

Are you working on International Standards Acceleration?

At the international level, the Government Relations team is excited about the work we’ve started with our HIMSS International colleagues to bring governments into the new Global Consortium on e-Health Interoperability. HIMSS co-created with HL7 International and Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise International, which was launched at this year’s annual meeting of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. Hal Wolf represented HIMSS at the launch, which was endorsed by Dr. Don Rucker, the U.S. National Coordinator.

So far, we have buy-in from the United States government and the Netherlands, and are working with team members and other stakeholders to bring in other governments and policy makers before the first meeting at HIMSS20!


Calling All Changemakers

No matter where you are in the world, you can be part of what’s next for health. View digital resources, a content showcase and social media highlights on the HIMSS Global Health Conference Digital Experience page.

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