Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Something's Happening Here...

Readers of a certain age may recall that lyric, from a time of tumult & change that's now largely reduced to caricature, but whether that's in your mental soundtrack or not, there's no denying that we seem to be in an new era of change.

It's unsettling. That's the feeling change creates -- something that you can't quite put your finger on, something that you feel via your "spidey sense," something is different -- and as creatures of habit, we humans often resist. Last week's SCOTUS rulings demonstrate that some changes, once they gather enough steam, are inevitable. I pray the tiny steps forward we seem to maybe, finally, possibly be making to come to terms with racial disaparity and injustice -- and make no mistake, NASCAR taking down the traitor's battle flag is no small change -- make good on the promise of change we made back when the Buffalo Springfield were still a going concern.

Over the last month, traveling around the country to hear first hand what people are talking about when they gather to talk about health data and health IT, my internal Change Is Happening Here alarms were set off again and again. In Michigan, Nick Lyon, Director of their newly merged Department of Health & Human Services, spoke about EHRs, expanding coverage, the State's enterprise systems, the customer service challenges that come with a diverse and complex mix clients and beneficiaries, MI's abundant, highly functional HIEs (joined together by MiHIN), the Governor's policy agenda, and improving communication as one big topic.

It was a joy to behold.  A bureaucrat who sees the power of IT to righteously cut through silos! That, my friends, is a sign of significant change. The health and human services infrastructure we've been struggling to implement and improve is finally beginning to converge in functional operation, and leadership recognizes its value. States like Michigan have much to teach us about bringing data sharing to national scale.

In Minnesota, people at both the state and community level are convening to figure out how they should best stitch together all the ends of the care and services continuum, not for an accountable health organization, but for accountable health communities.

The excitement was palpable, as in: one of the leads for their state- and community-level road map work was literally beaming, bouncing up and down on her feet, describing how fun and exciting her work is, bringing together people and organizations across the continuum to share data to improve the quality and coordination of care and services. Minnesota Commissioner of Public Health Ed Ehlinger described "health IT as a social determinant of health," observing that communities and populations that don't have equitable access to technology will be at a disadvantage, just as they are when they don't have adequate access to healthy food and safe neighborhoods.

There's lots to learn from the materials posted at both Minnesota's e-Health Summit and MiHIN's Connecting Michigan conference. They both provide a clear signal that change is in the air. (As a former DJ, I can't help myself as the tunes suggest themselves, but my tastes include newer music as well.)

My new friend Josh Bernhoff calls my enthusiasm "cheerleading," but for those of us who have battled against the weariness and ennui most change agents face in the institutions of government and the healthcare industrial complex, we know that this change has been a long time coming, and it's too late to stop now.

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