HIMSS 2013: Talk of the Town in New Orleans

March 8, 2013
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HIMSS13 is the first trade show I’ve ever attended in my brief career, and let me just say that future shows will have a lot to live up to if they wish to compete with this one. In addition to its sheer size, HIMSS has attracted the most intelligent minds in healthcare IT, allowing it to serve as a think tank for where this industry will head in the next year, three years, and even five years. Based on day one’s keynote by Ochsner’s Warner Thomas, it’s clear that healthcare IT is leading the charge when it comes to the evolution of healthcare in our country, but healthcare IT can’t do it alone. It takes collaboration, understanding, and optimism from organizations if they are to truly be the appropriate healthcare provider of the future–one that provides patients with high-quality, affordable care.

himss13Throughout the first two days of HIMSS, there have been a plethora of buzzwords bouncing around the walls of the convention center. That’s not to say that these words are spoken so much that they’ve lost all meaning, but from the volume of conversation surrounding them, it’s clear what the most important topics are here at HIMSS.

Meaningful Use: This is probably the most common phrase that has been spoken among the HIMSS crowd. With EHRs and EMRs being adopted among organizations, a wide variety of vendors present, and the looming incentives healthcare organizations stand to gain, it’s a no brainer that you can hear this phrase uttered wherever you go. HIMSS has even created a Meaningful Use showcase that allows vendors to show customers and prospects how they are helping organizations meet Meaningful Use requirements. Carestream is one of many vendors participating in that showcase, and it’s truly impressive to see just how many providers are out there working to make Meaningful Use a reality in healthcare.

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Big Data: This one is kind of tied to the Meaningful Use phrase. Warner Thomas mentioned in his keynote how retailers are using big data to understand the shopping behaviors of their customers and healthcare should be doing the exact same thing. With moving to the digital realm, there are petabytes of data available to healthcare providers that allow them to understand healthcare trends and patterns among patients in a way that will can provide more efficient and higher quality care. Imagine if a hospital was able to diagnose a condition for a patient based on similar symptoms and patterns recognized by combing big data of other patients (anonymously) throughout a state or region. It’s possible, and it’s currently being put into practice today.

Patient Engagement: Yesterday was “Patient Engagement Day” HIMSS and for good reason–this initiative is seen as being the key to improving the quality of delivered healthcare. This phrase is often tied to Meaningful Use and being able to provide patients with access to their EHRs, which is actually a requirement of Meaningful Use Stage 2 stating that 5% of patients must be able to access their records. But patient engagement is so much more than EHR access. It involves access to healthcare providers, being able to communicate freely with medical professionals in a way that enlightens the patient, and allows providers to deliver better care. Patient portals play a huge role in this, because it allows patients to have the access to their healthcare providers, and delivers their own healthcare information that hey should be allowed to see whenever they want. This has been a huge initiative for Carestream with the launch of MyVue and the successful trials we’ve seen with it in the medical imaging space. It’s no surprise that this trend continues to grow in popularity.

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Health IT Security: No surprise here, but with so much data becoming digital, and more providers hosting this data via cloud environments, security of this information is increasing in importance. HIPAA and HITECH has set security mandates for providers so that patient data can be protected, but it remains an ever-changing field because as the threats evolve, so must the security technologies. There are numerous vendors at HIMSS that are showing off their cloud and storage capabilities while simultaneously showing attendees the technologies and steps that are taken to ensure that data remains secure, yet still accessible to those who need it. It’s a as instinct trend to follow, and one that will only become more important as more healthcare providers step into the digital world.

While there are many more buzzwords and phrases being talked about at HIMSS–mHealth, cloud computing, ACOs, Affordable Care Act, ICD-10, etc.–these we’re the four that I’ve personally been coming across most often.

What topics have you found to be the most interesting at HIMSS13? As we move into day three, what has been your favorite moment of the event so far?