View from the Bridge

HIMSS20 – My Annual Exercise in HIT Sensory Overload

It’s the time of year to start preparation for the HIMSS 2020 Conference to be held in HIT’s Magic Kingdom appropriately hosted in Orlando, FL at the cavernous Orange County Convention Center.  The options for professional growth are immense and overwhelming – how does anyone or even a well-organized team get to attend more than 300 education sessions, visit more than 1,000 vendor booths, and network with more than 40,000 colleagues (and those numbers are low based on past conferences)?

Though it won’t officially begin until noon on Sunday, March 8th, my HIMSS experience begins weeks in advance creating a plan for how to get the most out of it – preparing a presentation, writing a blog, sifting through a flood of emails, sending some of my own to old friends doing my best to tread lightly on their patience, trying to connect with some new friends, and finally, adding appointments to what will inevitably be a bloated calendar.

We all know this is going to be an overly stimulating event in an ORE (opportunity rich environment).  In years past, the conference begins at the departure area in the airport where I see friends and colleagues waiting to board what looks like a HIT charter.  That’s where the networking and knowledge exchange that defines the HIMSS20 experiences (yes, plural) begins.

The HIMSS team knows how to put on a show – talk about great project management.  They deserve our gratitude for creating an environment where education, networking, and knowledge sharing create an audible buzz that starts early, reaches a fever pitch that lasts all week long, and recurs for months post-HIMSS when you remember something you saw or heard as you return to normal activities.  And, thank goodness for the people taking care of the airlines, hotels, booths, food services, and off-site events.

The combination of those activities generates pride and enthusiasm.  Already proud and enthusiastic to be a HIT professional, I always leave the event prouder and more enthusiastic than when I came.  Though physically demanding, all attendees leave with newfound energy from the interactions.  To get a better sense of this, read “IT matters – why I work in healthcare” posted by StarBridge Advisors Principal, Sue Schade, on February 15, 2019.

Another group that deserves kudos are people for whom I have experience-based appreciation – federal employees representing the public sector.  They have learned how to get attention in a signal heavy space.  Leading the efforts are 2 great public servants who will be speaking at a special keynote session on Wednesday in W320 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.: Seema Verma, Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) and Don Rucker, M.D., National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).

In terms of themes to explore, most of the talks and vendors will focus on digital health services and how to become a part of the digital health system writ large.  For your sake and that of the organization with whom you’re associated, it’s important to seek clarity about what that means for you and the communities you serve.  You’ll get plenty of opinions and offers for assistance on definition and services that you need to function as a digital health system.  In subsequent blogs, I’ll share my opinion on those very matters.

Another obvious theme that will get much deserved attention is data and how to convert that overabundant resource into fuel for analytics engines and how machines will consume it to learn.  I’ve blogged before about the tsunami of data that is coming and the degree to which we must focus on how to harness and direct the energy associated with it to improve health care and wellness.

Given this focus on data, cybersecurity will be front and center.  For the confidentiality, privacy, and safety of our patients and their families, every provider, payer, vendor, and participant will need to create and then sustain a culture of security and privacy.

Interoperability will continue to be a focus though we’re still a long way from where we need to be – plug-and-play interoperability with 100% positive person identification.  There is an interoperability showcase that will help demonstrate how far we’ve come as an IT community.  What frustrates me is how far we still have to go.  Patient matching is a great intermediate step, but insufficient for the kind of care all of us deserve.  Click this link to see the Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday tours, demonstrations, and lectures about interoperability.

And let’s not forget the showroom floors where more than a thousand vendors will be showing their wares, demonstrating their products, answering questions, scanning your badges, and passing out “chatzkies” to help remind you about them when you get home.  Each year one or two vendors create a firestorm of interest by producing something cute or thought-provoking.  A couple of past favorites include smiling stuffed fish toy animals and honey which was gathered on the roof of one of the vendors (hint: you pronounce their name LK).

Perhaps the most rewarding activity is the chance for meaningful conversation – at the presentations, in the booths, at the social events and in the hallways.  The brilliance of the people in our HIT industry inspires me.  I’m thrilled to be in the company of what the theme for the conference promoted, “the Champions of Health.”  If you want to learn more, please contact us at StarBridge Advisors so we can schedule time to discuss what we do and why.  We’d like to visit old friends and make new friends.

Finally, wear comfortable shoes.  It’s the best advice you’ll get.

This immersive, dazzling, and hyper-stimulating experience is challenging, yet refreshing; overwhelming, yet nurturing; chaotic, yet well-organized; inspiring and well worth the effort. WOW!

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