Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Reflections on HIMSS 2011

This year the annual 2011 Annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Conference & Exhibition broke all previous attendance records. 31,225 attendees showed up in Orlando, Florida for the conference between Monday February 21 to Thursday February 24 with pre-conference events beginning Saturday night. Total professional registration at this year’s conference also saw an increase with 14,639 registrants, compared to 13,672 registrants in 2010. But aside from record breaking crowds and the sheer size of the conference, the things that struck me were some of the themes illustrated in the content. I will explore some of them in future posts, and believe there was some great catalyst for innovation springing from this years conference.

One of theses themes was health information exchange (HIE). The HIE Symposium held on Sunday before the conference kicked off explored how HIEs are leveraged to meet the 'new era' challenges of leveraging HIE in achieving Meaningful Use and reaching patient care quality goals. There were sessions from experts and state legislators, a panel on federal initiatives and many other valuable educational opportunities. There was also a Town Hall session focused on the intersection of HIE with Accountable Care Organizations, Healthcare/Payment Reform and Insurance Exchanges. There were at least 16 educational sessions after the symposium touching on HIE.

Of course, the Interoperability Showcase also continued this theme with numerous educational opportunities and presentations from industry leaders. There were tours scheduled throughout the conference and this was one of the more important areas of the exhibit hall (although tucked away off to the side). There were also demonstrations from each of the Direct Project pilots getting under way, and many announcements from vendors during the conference on their involvement in the project. Just take a peak at the Interoperability Showcase Use Case Selection web pages for a taste what attendees had the opportunity to experience.

Another important theme was the topic of the Accountable Care Organization (ACO). The Leading from the Future: A Thought Leadership Event on Accountable Care Organizations sessions were outstanding and there were also numerous focus groups and roundtable breakfasts on the topic. Aneesh Chopra brought the subject up at the Venture Fair presentations and HIT X.0 and one thing he started the Intel sponsored breakfast roundtable is still ringing in my ears: "By January 2012 you will see these organizations and new payment models so you had better be prepared." I am increasingly convinced that without the technical infrastructure in place to enable new payment and delivery models, healthcare in this country will continue to drag down our economy and keep us from improving quality.

The other theme that emerged from this conference was the explosion of social media. Every where you looked you saw exhibitors drawing attention to their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages, and Keith Boone even managed to have his Twitter handle printed on his official conference badge :-) But the new Social Media Pavillion at HIMSS was a huge hit. There were many excellent presentations, and despite being somewhat difficult to find, the center was a hubub of acticity. Throughout the conference, attendees used social media to share their observations, comments, photos, and videos. You can see the enthusiasm from activity on the HIMSS page on Facebook, discussion groups on LinkedIn, the HIMSS Channel on YouTube and tweets all over Twitter! The educational sessions, panel presentations, and fellowship and sense of community in the social media center was a definite highlight of this years conference. I'm really excited about what next year may hold...