HIMSS 2013 – Health IT at the Forefront

Inspiration, information and innovation all embody one of the biggest health informatics conferences in the world: HIMSS 2013. Having just returned from my first trip to the annual Healthcare Information and Management System Services (HIMSS) conference, I want to share my experience and absolute excitement for the future of healthcare information technology. 

Approximately 37,032 people converged on New Orleans to explore all facets of healthcare IT during the conference, from politics to education. Over 900 exhibitors covered an overwhelming linear mile of convention center floor pushing wares and giving away everything from iPad Minis to jet skis (yes, jet skis). CEOs, CIOs, CMIOs, clinicians, informaticists and the industry’s leading representatives were present to share from around the globe. Keynote speakers included health system executives,  author Eric Topol, President Bill Clinton, and Karl Rove. It was a high energy, exciting environment that fostered exchange of ideas, high level networking and announcements of major innovations.

There were two major announcements I want to share, as they profoundly impact the way we will practice medicine over the next 5-10 years. The first was the opening of the HIMSS Innovation Center in Cleveland, OH in October 2013. HIMSS will use the 12,500 sq ft of space and invite all healthcare IT vendors to work together to achieve the highest level of interoperability.

I was able to demo the early results of this major interoperability movement at the HIMSS showcase. I was given a fictional patient and watched how the patient’s data was moved from the ED EHR to the PACS to pharmacy to outpatient EHR and home monitoring devices seamlessly and regardless of vendor hardware/software solution. MEP providers have been able to appreciate the benefits of Maryland’s Health Information Exchange through the use of CRISP. As a result of the HIMSS interoperability initiative in Cleveland there will hopefully be no place for patient data to hide or be excluded from access ever again.

The second announcement was the formation of the CommonWell Alliance. This non-for-profit trade association has a vision for making patient data available to all providers and patients regardless of where care occurs. They will work toward a national infrastructure to achieve patient linking/matching, patient access/consent management and record locator services. The companies that are already dedicating their time and resources to this important initiative include Allscripts, Athenahealth, Cerner, McKesson, Greenway and Relay Health.

I also want to share some key points, future vision and food for thought regarding healthcare IT discussed during Dr. Topol’s keynote speech. His initial discussion began with the healthcare industry lagging behind both airline and banking industries in standards and interoperability. Both of these industries function in a global theater that allows customers to enter/exchange data regardless of location.

Power to the customer: the airline industry has achieved the ability to handle double the passengers with half the staff at the exact same cost per rider over the past 10 years by giving customers the ability to manage their own data/baggage, etc. Home monitoring technology and the advent of smart phone technology could replace expensive in-hospital testing such as sleep studies where a pulse/oximeter could be connected to an iPhone for thousands of dollars in savings.

Digital voice technology to detect Parkinson’s earlier than ever before, breath tests for cancers and a mini-ultrasound in the pocket of every medical student (Mount Sinai) is the present and future of healthcare. This is merely the surface of the innovative technologies heading for medicine all with the goal of cost-containment and patient safety.

Finally, there is the incredibly exciting field of genomics. As clinicians we hear about genome projects, new cancer drugs and ways to diagnose all the time. I only recently learned about Translational Bioinformatics and personalized medicine from my graduate IT courses. Dr. Topol discussed the potential astronomical health savings from a genomics and personalized medicine. There are many Genomewide Association Studies (GWAS) taking place right now that will help us tailor not just cancer treatment but everything from the efficacy of certain medicines, to cures for diabetes, heart disease or stroke.

The future of Health IT and these many initiatives will be a part of the solution to many of today’s systems problems. Every keynote, vendor and political pundit discussed cost-containment, patient-safety and how we can achieve this through interoperability and giving patients the power to access/manage their own private health record. MEP shares this vision for cost-containment, quality and success – I will keep you all updated as our industry rapidly changes over the next few years.