THCB

HIMSS15 Wrap up

By MICHELLE RONAN NOTEBOOM

flying cadeuciiIt’s taken me two days to recover from 3-1/2 days of HIMSS15 and I wonder how the other 43,138 attendees are faring. Actually I am pretty confident that few people escaped Chicago without swollen feet and exhausted minds and bodies.

The convention is a mammoth event that offers a little something for everyone, whether you are interested in policy, technology, education, networking, buying, or selling. Some folks, including Greg Rakas of epatientfinder, believes the event is almost too big and overwhelming. In Greg’s words, “We have the most professional people and vendors in all of medicine there resorting to magicians and games of chance to lure people in. I found that to be a little disappointing and pandering.”

Others, like Houston Johnson, CEO of Practice Insight, were quite satisfied with the overall experience.  “We met with many of our partners and that’s really why we come here,” Johnson shared. “It gives us a chance to talk to our existing resellers and meet new resellers.”

The exhibit hall – which supposedly measures 22 football fields – creates a bit of a sensory overload. While walking the floor with a friend of mine, he remarked that it’s a bit like New York City with all the big crowds and flashing lights. Over 1,000 exhibitors pay thousands of dollars for the opportunity to draw the attention to their offerings, hence the magicians, late afternoon cocktail receptions, and iPad, Apple Watch, and GoPro giveaways.

Attendees had several hundred sessions to choose from, which means you can’t help to miss out on some great content. It also means everyone experiences HIMSS a little bit differently. With that in mind, here are a few of my observations:

The buzz: interoperability topped the list. Vendors were offering interoperability tools or discussing new alliances, including Surescripts, which announced a National Record Locator Services with eCliicalWorks, Epic, and Greenway. Meanwhile, Epic and athenahealth announced they would not charge customers for health information sharing. With all the talk of interoperability, there was considerable chatter about FHIR and its potential as the next big technology to facilitate data exchange. Other top topics included population health, patient engagement, and analytics.

Sessions and speakers:  I personally only made it to only three or four sessions. My favorite was a Social Media and Influence Meetup that included a great group of panelists: Keith Boone, Dr. Doug Fridsma, Dr. Rasu Shrestha, and David Muntz. Collectively they provided insightful commentary on social media in healthcare, interoperability, workflow, and more. I heard multiple people comment that ONC’s Dr. Karen DeSalvo delivered a great keynote address Thursday morning, but I had already left for home.

Announcements and speculations: some of the bigger announcements included

I am not sure if this is rumor or just speculation, but I did hear some chatter that DeSalvo may leave the ONC within a few weeks or months. DeSalvo sightings at the conference were numerous and one friend who heard her speak admitted to me that she had a “girl crush” on DeSalvo because she seemed so “normal and just like us.” I confess I also got a little excited when I was close enough to her to snap a photo.

Another topic that generated a good deal of discussion among healthcare IT enthusiasts was whether Epic would eventually join Commonwell Health Alliance. I heard a few adamant “no’s” along with more than one suggestion that the question was not if they would join, but when.

Several debates centered over the likelihood of moving towards a national patient identifier. Interestingly, a friend noted that the US Post Office, who was participating in the Interoperability Showcase, was in the process of setting up a common patient identifier for all its current and former employees. The success and acceptance of that initiative will be worth keeping an eye on.

In summary, HIMSS15 did not disappoint in terms of opportunities to learn, network, and gossip about the industry. Other than long lines for taxis and Starbucks, the conference logistics were good. The amount of walking required to navigate the McCormick Center was at times brutal, but I am not sure the layouts for Orlando or Las Vegas are any better. The parties outnumbered the sleeping hours and once again I left wishing there had been more time to experience a bit more of everything.

Michelle Ronan Noteboom covers HIT for The Health Care Blog and authors the HIT Newser column

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Merle Bushkin
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Interoperability, indeed, was the major theme at HIMSS15. But the irony is that despite all the talk and hoopla in the educational sessions and the exhibit halls about the pressing need for interoperability, it was nowhere to be found — except in my pocket on my MedKaz®!