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April 12, 2009 News No Comments

HIMSS: A Doctor’s Perspective
By Joel Diamond, MD

This was my fifth year attending the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society extravaganza. In the past, this event has all but ruined the chance to spend Valentine’s Day with my wife (she insists that the name HIMSS was perfect for this guyfest). This year, they managed to overlap both Palm Sunday and Passover. Although it is tempting, I will try to refrain from the obvious clichés about techno geeks needing to get a life try to be respectful of the real world.

It is easy for a practicing physician to feel overwhelmed in this universe. Although this year was a bit more subdued, the amount of money spent by IT vendors is orders of magnitude greater than that seen at, say, the equivalent trade show of the American Academy of Family Physicians. I am told that it is exceeded significantly by the Radiological Society of North America conference. You can draw your own parallels to the priorities of dollars spent in actual healthcare.

The official conference was preceded by the Physicians IT Symposium, which was well attended and quite informative. There were similar symposia held separately for pharmacists and nurses. Unfortunately, the lack of integration into the greater conference seemed to reinforce a sense of segregation of real-world clinicians from the bigger community of “Healthcare Information and Management”.  Nonetheless, topics ranging from personal health records, Pay-for-Performance, and the Medical Home were timely and thought-provoking.

That said, the real world clinicians attending for the first time that I spoke with absolutely loved this conference. They told me that they had no idea of the immense amount of innovation and creativity that was out there. They were inspired to take this new sense of potential back to their organizations and push for meaningful change.

I have to agree with them.  Every year I discover my own new perspectives on the possibilities of what can be. The dream of improving patient care through the application of correct technologies becomes much more palpable.

Oh yeah, did I mention that the HIStalk Reception was awesome? Free drinks, great food, the Trump Tower, and a chance to network with some the industry’s real leaders of change. Unfortunately, the event was marred by the truly horrendous choice of emcee for the HISsie awards (inside joke).

Although the mysterious Inga did not reveal herself, the knowledge of her presence was the stuff that dreams are made of …

Clinically speaking.

Joel Diamond, MD is chief medical officer at dbMotion, adjunct associate professor at the Department of Biomedical Informatics at the University of Pittsburgh, and a practicing physician at UPMC and of the Handelsman Family Practice in Pittsburgh, PA. He also blogs on interoperability.

Thoughts on HIMSS
By RegularDoc

Physician IT Symposium
A one-day event that all docs in IT should consider attending.  Dr. Peter Basch’s talk in the morning was fantastic — the top eight things in IT that need clinician leadership. Another highlight was CIO/Dr. Martin Harris’s presentation about how Cleveland Clinic is using IT and their EMR to expand their ability to take care of patients nationally and internationally.

Dennis Quaid Keynote
I appreciated Quaid starting a foundation to increase public awareness, but he should have focused on that and not started talking about “his vision” of how IT could help (we all know the vision, DQ — stick to your strong points). But then I felt sorry for him when the post-speech questions were actually real IT questions! Maybe you could have a contest for best question one would have asked DQ. For example, I might have asked, “Are you now considering starring or working in a movie that deals with medical errors?" or “If you were Mr. HIStalk in a movie, whom would cast as Inga?"

George Halverson Keynote
I really admire what he and Kaiser have done and agree when he says all we need do is: (1) follow medical best practices; (2) improve caregiver coordination; and (3) have consistent follow through to close any loops. But he knows they have been able to create this “Medical Home” type of environment due to their economic model (one entity owning everything). So, he should careful in making it sound like everyone else just has to try a little harder and use more IT. In other words, the majority of us working in a FFS environment want to do these things, but as we all know, we need to have our reimbursement model change before we can really pull together around this concept.

Alan Greenspan Keynote
Well, he’s very cute in those glasses, but wow — did he think he was in front of some economics professors? Most of what he did was read off a prepared speech that was hard to fully grasp. But it was better when he did occasionally look up and address the audience and when he did the couch interview with Lieber.

Great, lots of people there — old and new. But, not nearly as many social events as in the past for obvious reasons, thus making it less likely to meet random new people.

Exhibit Hall
I  actually liked that there were not mongo-size booths, although I hated the floor layout — the numbers were just not consistent. On the other hand, I got a good workout walking around and stumbled onto a few booths I might not have otherwise seen.

Other Thoughts
On one hand, there was great excitement about the stimulus package and concern about “meaningful use” and whether CCHIT will be the required standard for EMRs. On the other hand, users in the know (e.g. doctors who use and implement EMRs) focused more on concerns about the usability of EMR systems (or really, the poor usability of most EMRs that create inefficiencies and quality risks).

Said another way, we will get so much more clinical and economic benefits from these systems as they become more usable, either via vendors listening to their current users (rather than prospective users) and/or vendors opening up their systems to allow for more user-defined user interfaces that sit on top of their systems.


RegularDoc is a regular doc.

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