While there is growing awareness in both doctor’s offices and health IT markets of the critical...
Reflections: CMS Convergence 2022
Elkridge, MD – On August 11, CMS held its 7th annual Convergence Conference. In the pre-pandemic days, this event provided a singular opportunity for the vendor community to hear OIT and the Centers discuss the major CMS IT initiatives. OIT and most of the CMS Centers’ IT groups were well represented, as well as several key executive business leaders.
I have been attending Convergence, both in-person and virtually for the last five years. As an ex-CMS executive and CIO, I love to see the Agency highlight the great IT work that is being done across the various Centers and Offices. Perhaps it’s because of the impact of the pandemic, or the increase in other CMS IT educational sessions, but Convergence seems to have lost much of its cache over the last three years. Organizations like CCIIO, CPI, CMCS and CCSQ provided very good presentations in previous years, but either were not at this year’s event, or played a much smaller role. In my opinion, this lack of Center participation was a major loss to the overall value of the Conference.
The Agency has a great story to tell. Its thousands of dedicated employees and contractors work hard each day to fulfill a mission that is the lifeblood for the US Healthcare System, especially for the healthcare needs of the most vulnerable citizens.
This year, Convergence was much more OIT-centric, but was still very informative, with some excellent presentations. Here were some key takeaways:
CMS is making good progress in modernizing some of their major legacy systems. They are moving beyond the “lift and shift” cloud migration mindset and now really beginning to think strategically about how to use cloud technologies to create more effective and efficient business processes and IT management.
The complexity and siloed nature of the CMS ecosystem, both internal and external, creates unique challenges to modernization that impede, but don’t stop, progress. I was impressed that CMS participants are now focusing more on the larger Agency/industry impacts beyond a narrow, traditional, regulatory focus on building systems solely to meet a specific business requirement. As I’ve said before, every customer has at least one customer of their own and adopting a broader mindset for development results in systems with much more usability, flexibility, and overall effectiveness, especially when leveraging a cloud environment.
Communication is the critical factor for successful implementations; do it early and often. Better and more comprehensive communications between the business staff and the technical team, and with the contractors will help result in consolidated metrics, a shared understanding of the policies and the rationale for the existing legacy systems and a common vision of the desired end state.
Everyone is prioritizing security, and CMS has major privacy concerns about contractors storing PHI data offshore.
CMS is thinking more holistically about new technologies and is integrating cloud, APIs, and to some extent AI/ML into their overall planning and thinking about existing and new workloads.
Business units are stepping up more as full partners on developing systems requirements.They are recognizing that cloud migrations can not only provide better technical solutions, but also can bring more capabilities to the business end users. They can now make improvements to business systems without needing extensive technical support. Thanks again to CMS for continuing to host the Convergence Conference. I hope that next year’s will be in-person again and have greater participation from the CMS Centers.
The Agency has a great story to tell. Its thousands of dedicated employees and contractors work hard each day to fulfill a mission that is the lifeblood for the US Healthcare System, especially for the healthcare needs of the most vulnerable citizens. I hope to see next year’s Conference more completely highlight the critical importance of IT in helping the Agency meet its ever-expanding mission to the American people.