Pick up any healthcare information technology trade publication – even just about any major newspaper – and you’ll see the terms “meaningful use” attached to nearly every article touching on HIT incentives in the stimulus.
What does “meaningful use” mean? Kathleen Sebellius, director of the Department of Health and Human Services, will need to figure it out. Until then, the healthcare and healthcare IT industries have taken it upon themselves to help define what “meaningful use” of healthcare IT should embrace – that is, what makes healthcare IT truly meaningful.
HIMSS started an online discussion forum, asking its members to weigh in on what should constitute “meaningful use.” Compuware Corporation launched a Website – www.meaningfuluse.org – in partnership with the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems to serve in large part as a vehicle for discussion in the medical community about the “would-be” components of “meaningful use.”
Despite the absence of a hard-and-fast definition of “meaningful use,” the guiding principles inlaid in those terms are becoming clearer. In recent testimony before the National Committee on Vital and health Statistics, Mark Leavitt, chairman of the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology or CCHIT – the federal certifying body of interoperable EMR systems dedicated to accelerating healthcare IT adoption – stated, “The major parameters are actually written into the bill. It has to be a certified EHR, it has to include e-prescribing, it has to be able to exchange information and it has to be able to report quality data.”
As healthcare IT marketers, we’ll take clarity over ambiguity any day, since clarity and definition surrounding “meaningful use” can help drive strategies that can address and embrace the present and the future to accelerate sales. But in the absence of a clear definition of “meaningful use,” what’s a healthcare IT marketer to do? Wait for Washington and the industry to come together to help dictate strategy, or do we use what we have to forge ahead?
I believe the best marketer’s view not having all the answers not as a challenge, but as an opportunity to define what the answers could be. They take bits of knowledge and use them to create a vision for what’s next based on the value propositions of the companies and products they represent.
If we know that certification, e-prescribing, interoperability and quality reporting are the bits of knowledge available, it’s the proactive HIT marketer that spends time talking to decision-makers about how their products meet and exceed these requirements, and are nimble enough to adapt to the yet-to-be-known.
By embracing uncertainty rather than fearing it, HIT marketers lay the foundation for organizational thought leadership, which adds more long-term strategic value than success with any single product or service ever could.
-- Brian Barthelmes