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Rocket Fuel for Innovation: The 2011 MMIS Conference

Last week I attended the 2011 Medicaid management information system (MMIS) conference in Austin, Texas. Despite record-breaking heat, the conference was packed with innovators from across the country, all eager to discuss key initiatives and changes impacting the Medicaid space. As you can imagine, between the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), and ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases), there was much to talk about. Deltek will be providing an analyst recap for download later this week, but I thought I would go ahead and highlight some of the key trends threaded throughout the sessions along with my favorite moments during the five-day conference.

The conference organizers could not have picked anyone better than Todd Park, chief technology officer of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to present the keynote address. Park laid out a formula he thinks defines this moment of historic opportunity in health care: new incentives + information liberation + data exchanges/next generation Medicaid = the rocket fuel for innovation. New incentives provided by the ACA change how we pay for care, shifting from "pay for volume of services" toward "pay for health and value." Payment reform will motivate and reward innovation at a whole new level. Information liberation is essential as patient data liquidity makes it easier for data to follow the patient around. Next generation systems and exchanges depend on innovative technology to provide a "no wrong-door" experience for the consumer. Park proclaimed that if you are working in the health care arena and love information technology and data, then there is no better place to be right now.

There was the continual reminder that 2014, in IT development terms, was last year, not three years away. In order to prepare for the millions of new Medicaid users, developing process integrations and new work flows has to happen now. MITA (Medicaid information technology architecture) 3.0 should help. The new version is estimated be available (in draft form) in the next couple of weeks, with the final version due by December 31, 2011. Penny Thompson of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) detailed the reasoning behind an updated document, and said MITA 2.0 has not accounted for major policy changes, including:

  • ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act)
  • CHIPRA (Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009)
  • ACA
  • Guidance for exchange and Medicaid IT systems
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996
  • ICD-10

Thompson said we are lucky MITA even exists at all, as it was underfunded and essentially developed off of the backs of the people present in the room. She said we need to transform the MMIS system from simply a claims/payment system into a learning/thinking/management system.

Progress isn't only being made in the health care field. For those who followed former Oregon Chief Information Officer (CIO) Rick Howards' work, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is developing a National Human Services Information Architecture to apply across the human services arena.

The biggest takeaway (as it should be) was the need to focus on the end user and help them find the right information efficiently, regardless of the system they use. Although IT systems needing to be created are fresh on everyone's mind, states have to understand that these systems need to be as indifferent to who owns them as the people who need the benefits. Departments can't squabble over who owns what function or who pays what cost. The consumer doesn't care who owns which eligibility product; they simply want to know if they will be receiving their food stamps today or tomorrow. Rick Friedman and Henry Chao, both of CMS, closed the conference by reiterating the need for collaboration and harmony. Friedman summed up the conference very nicely when he said, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."

Look for an upcoming analyst recap of the 2011 MMIS Conference, and make sure to follow GovWin's Health Care and Social Services Team on Twitter @GovWin_HHS or connect with us through LinkedIn.

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