HIMSS in Hindsight

I just spent a dizzying week in the Crescent City, trying to absorb a fraction of health IT knowledge from the powerhouses—Mostashari, Topol, Clinton—sharing insights, strategies and visions for the future at the Healthcare Information and Management System Society (HIMSS) annual conference.

The sheer enormity of HIMSS is overwhelming, with estimated total attendance at 34,696 including 13,985 professional attendees and 1,158 exhibitor personnel. That sounds about right. Several times, our editorial team encountered “session full” signs, and peeked in the door to find attendees jammed into conference center rooms like sardines, hoping to learn the mysterious formula for health information exchange sustainability, ICD-10 preparation or some other critical outcome.

From 60,000 feet, it seems there is a collective sense of urgency, but like New Orleans itself, the confidence and resiliency necessary to rebuild as a new and improved model also was apparent.

There are the stories that show success is possible, from Davies award winners teetering on the brim of insolvency transforming into profitable health systems with demonstrated improvements in population health to community hospitals brave enough to broadcast their blemishes and their process and progress toward fixes.

HIMSS, as always, put together a star-studded agenda of keynotes. Thousands of attendees drank from the well of inspiration. Consider:

  • Eric J. Topol, MD, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute and chief academic officer for Scripps Health in La Jolla, Calif., forecasted the Medical Gutenberg era.
  • Information technology gives millions of “little” people—those with little economic and political clout—huge collective clout to affect markets, former President Bill Clinton told the audience.
  • Farzad Mostashari, MD, ScM, National Coordinator of Health IT, insisted healthcare can change and shared his goal for Meaningful Use—zero penalties. “We want everybody to succeed on this.”
  • Warner L. Thomas, president and CEO of Ochsner Health System in New Orleans, reminded attendees that the airline and banking industries have leveraged IT to navigate massive change. Healthcare can do the same.

For complete conference coverage, click over to our sister publication, Clinical Innovation & Technology. Next week, we’ll report from the American College of Cardiology conference and feature our regular daily imaging news.

Lisa Fratt, editor