By Erin Holve, AcademyHealth

As I reflect on my time at #HIMSS16, and consider the types of sessions that I attended and my hallway conversations, two thoughts about HSR predominated over my days at the meeting. The first is that for this big and growing business of health IT, ‘health services research’ is largely an unknown quantity – despite the fact that our field trains the types of knowledge workers who can contribute greatly to the work. Second, given the degree of analytic automation that is emerging, now is a great time to advance our thinking in terms of the next set of novel research topics that need to be addressed. For example, during my 2 days at the conference, I saw limited discussion about ways to advance understanding of implementation or improvement science; and very little discussion about using health IT to improve care equity. These are areas where our voices and work needs to be heard.

With respect to the first issue, I realized that given HIMSS’ strong focus on direct care delivery, management, and billing, many of the topics may not be of great interest to health services researchers. Yet, I would encourage my colleagues with an interest in emerging data sources to pay careful attention to not only the emerging technologies, but also how the technology will interact with new policies to drive payment towards value rather than volume of services, such as MACRA and Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). Both will substantially revise the measures that guide physician payment and incentives.

As the saying goes, ‘what gets measured gets done’ – and the field of HSR should be front and center in those discussions as the technology and measurement practices needed to drive towards value are developed. Now is absolutely the time to engage in these discussions given CMS’ intent to release initial policies for the MIPS program by November 1, 2016. Be on the lookout for initial drafts in the next few months!

At the same time, our #1 priority is to continue pushing the science of care delivery forward. As recent reports from the National Academy of Medicine attest, we still have major improvements to make in terms of patient safety, quality, and access. Identifying successful practices to spread and scale new knowledge, particularly to improve health equity and access relies on our field’s work – and we need to be seen by technologists and operational leaders as key partners in this effort. Precision medicine is one among several scientific frontiers on which to improve patient-centered care and outcomes!

How is AcademyHealth incorporating these issues to support the field?

Great question! AcademyHealth’s new conferences are critical resources to better integrate health IT, data science and HSR. For example, the Concordium conference (September 12-13) brings together clinical, operational and analytic leaders working to design and execute strategies for delivery system transformation. This year AcademyHealth will host Health Datapalooza (May 8-11), the premier event to celebrate and enhance innovation with open health data. Both conference are fabulous opportunities to advance awareness of the field, and for us to connect and learn from our rich, diverse field, and new entrants.

In addition, our peer-reviewed, open access journal eGEMs has published a great set of more than 100 articles on these topics and in total, our repository of issue briefs, webinars, and posters includes more than 400 resources.

I welcome discussion on the most effective ways for HSR and health IT to intersect and support each other, and how AcademyHealth’s work in this space can be most informative to any of you who want to learn more.

We hope you’ll join the discussion as part of the EDM Forum’s upcoming free webinar series on new approaches to move PCOR evidence upstream as part of clinical decision support and electronic clinical quality measurement, as well as register to attend Health DataPalooza and Concordium!

Erin Holve, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.P.P. is Senior Director of Research and Education in health services research (HSR) at AcademyHealth. Dr. Holve leads the organization’s work on analytic methods and research resources for the field of health services research. She is principal investigator of several projects on patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR) and comparative effectiveness research (CER) including the Electronic Data Methods Forum ( Her recent published work has focused on the infrastructure —including training — needed in order to build learning health systems to improve patient care and outcomes. She is founding editor and editor-in-chief of AcademyHealth’s open access peer reviewed journal, eGEMs.