The annual Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in the USA is recognised as the global marketplace for health information technology, and related learning in information management systems. The HIMSS conference is so huge that any one person can only gain a certain view of its scope and coverage. But here is a taste of its extent, and what may be the future in health information technology.
The issues in healthcare across the world tend to be similar and include the need for: better care and quality at lower cost; decreasing waste and increasing efficiency; patient safety and empowerment; removing silos, and expanding overall eHealth. Technological developments include: pervasive use of Internet for accessing information, growing use of Cloud technology for hosting operations, information maintenance and storage, ubiquitous use of mobile devices (eg smart phones and tablets) for creating, receiving, maintaining and transmitting information, and with a growing need to safeguard information from malware/hackers. These key issues and numerous others were addressed at HIMSS14.
HIMSS 14, which was held in Orlando, Florida this year, was attended by 38,000 health professionals and 1,233 exhibiters in a hall that stretched one mile in distance from one end to the other. Pedometers supported the fact that people visiting the exhibition hall were covering more than 10,000 steps a day, with one person recording over 30,000 steps.
To be a child in a toy shop, is how people attending HIMSS describe a visit to the exhibition hall, with so many goodies that are attractive that one would like to take home. Attending the educational sessions is a challenge but rewarding, with so many presentations that appeal. Choosing is helped if one decides to follow a particular theme. HIMSS made every attempt to schedule educational sessions along a particular theme in the same room to reduce the long distances between the education session rooms.
The interoperability show-case has grown in size, with many vendors demonstrating their offerings of seamless integration between solutions. This is most impressive, and great progress seems to have been made in this area. The categories of healthcare sessions this year included: ICD10, Interoperability, Meaningful Use, Mobile Health, Patient Centered, Value of IT and Clinical Intelligence. Papers may be accessed on the HIMSS web site,www.himssconference.org under these themes.
Generally, when attending HIMSS, one tends to identify clear changes in technological directions, but this year, there were no obvious advancements in technology although mobility is still a hot topic. There were fewer presentations covering BYOD policies and procedures, but there was a greater focus on some of the challenges around mobility including: securing the data, tracking devices and device management, protecting the network, improving the strength of wireless networks and encryption. Separate sessions were scheduled in addition to the parallel educational presentations.
There were the expected “killer” apps, and mention of “app stores” where organisations refer staff to approved health apps, but this whole area of apps, didn’t seem to have the focus that one would expect. Where there was a mention of clinical apps, presenters were of the view that at this stage, that they were rarely integrated into the hospital’s main EMR.
HIMSS is known for its “giveaways” which stretch beyond the imagination. Some of the larger vendor exhibits had amazing creative ways of pulling people in including talking robots (remotely instructed), free drinks, memory sticks, cookies, X-box dance displays etc.
The ‘Meaningful Use’ policy of the Federal Government has had a massive impact on healthcare in the US, and continues to take the focus of staff who are investing millions in the implementation of their EMRs. In addition there is the delayed ICD10 project which is ongoing.
Wearable devices, sometimes categorised as “Mobility” are certainly starting to get more focus. In one session the audience were asked who was wearing a Fitbit or similar, and at least one-third of the audience raised their hands. The whole client/consumer-empowerment trend, and patient journey extending to family involvement, have led to an increasing emphasis being made in the content of presentations at HIMSS. This is of course adding the obvious challenges of integration across multiple vendors and differing environments.
There are many memorable speakers at HIMSS with last years’ being Bill Clinton. This year it was Hillary Clinton showing her understanding and empathy of health technology, and the benefits that the many advancements are providing from improving technology.
The ‘Meaningful Use’ initiative in the USA, combined with an increased health insurance coverage of the population flowing from Obamacare, will sustain increasing investment in eHealth. With the quest to connect disparate systems, eradicate paper records and forms in US Healthcare, and the apparent lack of a serious competitor to Vitro, Slainte has an opportunity to develop an opening in the US healthcare market.
It was the first time that Sláinte Healthcare exhibited and Vitro couldn’t help but attract people. Vitro is well placed to bridge many of the gaps that the EMRs of the world are leaving.
Jean Evans - eHealth Consultant
Jean has over 25 years’ experience in senior management roles in public and private healthcare organisations including Ministry/Department of Health, hospitals, and for consulting organisations and software developers in Australia, Asia, the Middle East and in Europe.
Jean's previous experience as Chief Information Officer/Director of ICT at the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (formerly known as South Eastern Sydney & Illawarra Health), and her broad experience across the health information technology and communications for 20 hospitals, has prepared her well, for consulting in many areas of health-related challenges.
During the period from the end of 2012, Jean assisted the NSW Ministry of Health in projects relating to Activity Based Funding. In addition, she participated across Australia in a number of ACHS & National Standards accreditation team’s reviews of both public and private hospitals.