HIMSS Moving Forward

February 28, 2012
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EXCLUSIVE POST – HIMSS as an organization continues to be a large tent which covers multiple stakeholders. From providers to vendors to payers, educators to startups to integrators, CMIOs to CNIOs to CIOs, HIMSS tries to create a home for everyone in healthcare IT. With 37,000 attending, appealing to all comers is a challenge. But several new directions at the HIMSS conference reflect a healthy and nimble organization whose size does not hold it back.

EXCLUSIVE POST – HIMSS as an organization continues to be a large tent which covers multiple stakeholders. From providers to vendors to payers, educators to startups to integrators, CMIOs to CNIOs to CIOs, HIMSS tries to create a home for everyone in healthcare IT. With 37,000 attending, appealing to all comers is a challenge. But several new directions at the HIMSS conference reflect a healthy and nimble organization whose size does not hold it back.

First, the focus on social media continues to grow. Having a keynote, Biz Stone, from the heart of social media in Silicon Valley, shows that HIMSS is serious about social media. Second, the expansion of the Social Media Pavilion at the conference plus an expanded array of speakers at the center reflect the growing interest in social media in health IT. Brian Ahier and Shahid Shah lead much of this effort including moderating panels and the genius bar, respectively. Third,   Twitter summaries of some keynotes, like Mostashari’s are now posted. Fourth, some educational sessions were devoted to social media in health care, such as, “Social Media, Healthcare and Law: Developing a Social Media Policy”, “Social Media and Job Seeking: The How To’s and Don’ts”  and “Physicians & Patients In The Time of Twitter: Trusted Relationships, Social Media, & Opportunities in Health” by Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, from Seattle Children’s Hospital, an active blogger known as @SeattleMamaDoc on Twitter. Fifth, there were sessions on virtual reality including “Chronic Illness in Second Life: Virtual Communities Supporting Real Healing” and a preconference workshop, “Integrating Virtual Worlds into Healthcare.” The Twitter activity was even subdivided into different hash tags: while #HIMSS12 was the tag for the conference as a whole, #HCSM (Healthcare Social Media) was promoted for use at the Social Media Pavilion, and #HITX0 for the special session of HIT X.0: Beyond the Edge sessions on innovative technologies.The #HIMSS12 hash tag set a record of 6,438 tweets on a single day from a healthcare conference.  Others were using #mHealth as well for discussions of mobile health technologies.

In fact, mobile technologies were a growing theme at HIMSS as well. There was a section of the exhibit floor devoted to mobile vendors with its own presentation area. Educational sessions included topics like, “Mobility, Clinicians and Care Delivery”,  “Delivering Secure Mobile Networks to Achieve Accountable Continuity of Care” and  “Engaging Employees in Wellness using Wireless Technology” which discussed EHR, PHR, passive and active monitoring through a cloud-based solution. Several mobile solutions were presented in the HIT X.0 forum including on that receive a lot of attention on Twitter, “StealthVest: A Wearable, Multi-Functional, Open-Source Monitoring System” used to monitor epilepsy, cardiac arrhythmias, asthmatics, and  long-term hospital patients.

Cloud computing was discussed throughout the conference even in relationship to mobile health storing data in the cloud. However, cloud was often used imprecisely, referring to SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) or Xaas (Everything as a Service) as simply cloud computing. Storing and processing data in the cloud, such as, using the Amazon cloud, was rarely discussed. There were some presentations which discussed private clouds, such as, cloud-based EMRs.

Other innovative aspects of HIMSS included:

  • HIT X.0 mentioned earlier which included demos and presentations of new HIT technologies
  • Leading from the Future: Engaging Consumers in their Digital Healthcare – this demonstrates a major shift for HIMSS to focus on the consumer and not only the provider community. It offered an opportunity for ePatients to present their views on Health IT and engagement. Leaders in this area presented such as, Regina Holiday. This is not just a once a year event; HIMSS is also launching a committee, eConnecting with Consumers Committee.
  • Continuing from previous years, the Health IT Venture Fair & Strategic Partner Forum provided opportunities for startups and funders to meet. It is satisfying to see HIMSS support small and sometimes  struggling companies and not just the large Health IT companies.

Larger themes at HIMSS as expected were ACOs, Meaningful Use and ICD10. There were multiple presentations on these themes with several showing how they successful achieved or are planning to achieve ACOs and Meaningful Use. On ICD10, the surprise announcement of the delay of ICD10 may have dampened the spirits of some vendors while being a relief to providers and some payers. One of the most practical presentations I attended was by my colleague, Deborah Kohn, “Extreme Makeover – ICD-10 Code Edition- Demystifying the Conversion Toolkit.” If all presentations focused on practical suggestions for moving forward on health IT problems, we would all benefit.

The annual HIMSS conference is a huge event covering the traditional IT issues for hospitals like EMRs and other enterprise level systems. However, the leadership is wise to include innovation, patient engagement, mHealth and social media, acknowledging their growing impact on health IT.