HIMSS look ahead: EHRs the way of the future

The annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2006 conference kicked off yesterday in San Diego with a bang, and those lucky enough to attend the preconference educational sessions experienced a variety of provocative sessions. The conference that expects to bring 21,000 healthcare professionals will continue through Thursday with much of the emphasis being on movement within governmental bodies, IT vendors and healthcare providers taking up the challenge of designing and implementing interoperative EHRs (electronic health records) within healthcare facilities and across various networks.

To that end, a number of informative symposiums were held yesterday covering a number of related topics such as the latest in RHIOs (regional health information infrastructure organizations), clinical engineering and IT, pay for performance, and pharmacy informatics. (see related stories below)

The rest of the week includes high-profile keynote speakers such as David Brailer, national health information technology coordinator, who today delivered his presentation, "The U.S. Government's Healthcare Information Technology Strategy: A Progress Report and a Look at What is to Come." (see story below) Over the next few days, other keynotes will be given by former U.S. Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Tom Ridge who will discuss U.S. security issues, security- influenced technology and healthcare preparedness in the aftermath of the Gulf Coast hurricanes; Craig R. Barrett, chairman of the board at Intel Corporation is discussing a true continuum of care through technological means; and a speech by former Virginian Governor Mark R. Warner that will discuss his bipartisan effort in healthcare related tax reform.

Education sessions at the conference, some 200 in all, are touching on many industry hot buttons. Among them is standards harmonization, and today one session focuses on the challenges of widespread interoperability for secure sharing of electronic patient information and efforts by Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP) to streamline these processes for all healthcare stakeholders.

More generally, another session today looks at health IT as a foundation for an overall improvement in healthcare, focusing on the work of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to ready clinicians in developing and implementing health IT through best practices for improvements in quality and safety for patients.

HIMSS 2006 also gives attendees access to the IHE Interoperability Showcase (booth #7319) that provides interactive EHR-related information through an exhibit featuring the latest technology and standards. New technologies are on exhibit to show visitors the latest capabilities in sharing patient information in diverse and robust ways.

Additionally, the showcase provides a model for visitors showing how RHIOs enable patients to more actively manage their healthcare in collaboration with providers. The 2006 exhibit showcases EHR products from as many as 44 companies, including: Cerner, DSS, GE Healthcare, IBM, Initiate Systems, InterSystems, Misys Healthcare Systems, Quovadx and Siemens Medical Solutions.

Last but not least, the Department of Defense (DoD) /Military Health System (MHS) Demo Area is displaying the lastest and greatest information and solutions used to improve military healthcare to improve care for patients.

And if that isn’t enough, attendees can spend their time browsing through the offerings of about 840 exhibiting companies.