I had a HIMSS 2015 hallucination.
Walking through the crowded exhibit halls of the premier health information technology trade show, the Prophet Isaiah’s vision of beating swords into plowshares and the lion lying down with the lamb suddenly unfolded before my eyes. Even if we were in McCormick Place in Chicago, not the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. (Although we were on an upper level.)
There ahead of me, the maker of the A-10 Thunderbolt “tank buster” dwelled in a booth a few steps from a maker of fasteners for tractor engines: sword and plowshare. Elsewhere, the PAC-3 missile manufacturer contentedly cohabitated with a company that sells baby strollers: lion and lamb.
However, what prompted this copacetic condition was not a prophet, but profits. As tens of billions of dollars pour into digital technology to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of U.S. health care, companies large and small all want a cut.
- The attack plane manufacturer and the missile maker? Lockheed Martin andNorthrop Grumman respectively, both of which also sell electronic health records and health information management systems.
- The tractor engine fastener? Made by the Spiralock division of Stanley Black & Decker SWK +1.15%, whose Stanley Healthcare unit sells a “solution set” for clinical operations and workflow.
- Baby strollers? They’re from the Graco unit of Newell Rubbermaid NWL +0.98%, whose Rubbermaid Healthcare division advertises mobile computing solutions and “providing caregiver workflow advantage.”
“Swords into plowshares” at HIMSS 2015?
Total U.S. spending on health care is closing in on a staggering $3 trillion.Entrepreneurs from everywhere in the economy are making a pilgrimage to this sector. Venture capital funding in health IT roared to $4.7 billion in 2014, according to the Mercom Capital Group, more than double the $2.2 billion in 2013. Small wonder that more than 42,000 attendees flocked to HIMSS this year, a jump of some 10,000 from as recently as 2011.
Here’s where we come to the part about world peace. The U.S. health care system is by no means the only one needing modernization and rationalization. Several years ago, HIMSS issued awhite paper examining electronic health records from a global perspective. The group now boasts regional offices and puts on events in Europe and Asia. As global capital markets recognize the potential of health IT, it’s not too much to hope that individuals of all religions, races and nationalities can come together in search of the “new, new thing,” the next big deal and the large pot of cash that comes with both.
Ideology is one thing, but, as the saying goes, business is business. Co-existence fostered by capitalism.
Admittedly, this isn’t quite what Isaiah had in mind. Still, if a prominent Middle Eastern country decides to switch from centrifuges to Software As a Service, I’ll be looking for the Iranian booth at HIMSS next year.