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HIMSS16 Preview: A Look Ahead with HIMSS’ VP of Informatics

February 24, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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With the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference just days away, there is certainly no shortage of things to look forward to and prepare for. Indeed, as the conference continues to grow, both in terms of attendance and quality, greater opportunity presents itself perhaps more than ever before as healthcare IT has been thrust into the center of overall healthcare considerations.

To help Healthcare Informatics’ readers navigate some of the inner happenings at HIMSS16 this year in Las Vegas, Vice President of Informatics for HIMSS, Joyce Sensmeier, recently spoke with HCI  Managing Editor Rajiv Leventhal about what will be at the top of mind for health IT leaders at the conference. Sensmeier joined HIMSS as the Director of Professional Services in 2000, and has a deep background in nursing informatics. In her current role at the Chicago-based HIMSS, she oversees clinical informatics, standards and interoperability. Below are excerpts of the discussion between Sensmeier and Leventhal as they preview HIMSS16.

What do you think will be the most talked about topics/buzz at HIMSS this year?

One thing that seems to keep popping up is the idea of population health, really getting more at the analytics and outcomes. We have been implementing electronic health record (EHR) systems for some time, and now it’s time to reap the benefits of that. With accountable care on the horizon, it’s even more important to understand what’s impacting population health.

Another perspective is innovation, which you see all across the board. One of the areas that I work in is interoperability, and we are seeing newer standards such as FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) really creating interesting opportunities, but we also want to make sure it’s done well and done right. The Argonaut Project is one way of validating that, so you are seeing pilots around that. Innovation is important and exciting, but challenging in healthcare since you have patients’ lives at stake.  

Joyce Sensmeier

Interoperability is something that’s in your wheelhouse, obviously. What are your thoughts on how far the industry has progressed?

With our Interoperability Showcase as an example, you see the realization of the interoperability that is in place today, compared to last year when people said we didn’t have much in place. We do have a good foundation of interoperability, and we are able to build upon that in innovative and creative ways. One example we are showing in the showcase is APIs (application program interfaces)—organizations are very interested in seeing how they can leverage APIs to get at the data at the data element level, as opposed to sharing documents. That said, the ability to share documents and do what we have accomplished is also extremely important. We have made progress, but there is a whole other level to get to.

What is impeding more progress from being made quicker?

A few things happened in the last few months of 2015 that I think will accelerate things. One is the Interoperability Roadmap that ONC laid out. Having that core set to look towards the future of a learning health system and understanding that the person is at the center of that will give us a rallying point. My background is nursing, so I have always felt that the patient is at the center, but now it’s about moving it beyond the acute care setting. The Roadmap helped lay the foundation for that, and helped us set a course for the future. Next year, we will be changing our whole model for the Interoperability Showcase from a technical demonstration to a concept of a connected learning health system where the individual can access their information wherever they are, as well as the clinician.

Another thing that we haven’t had before is the best available standards guidance from ONC. We have had the mantra that standards are important and we need them in place for interoperability, but we have never had the guidance of what the best ones are. So we can all use the same ones and connect appropriately. Having that guidance and having it updated regularly is very important. It’s an opportunity for the industry to weigh in on that, which is also extremely important.

How closely does HIMSS work with federal agencies in structuring these guidelines and roadmaps?

Very closely; we do it from a number of levels. We have a government relations team that is focused on the federal sector relationships as well as Congressional relationships. There is constant dialogue there. We bring in our thought leaders for those conversations as well as the meetings with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. We are in continual communication with them. For instance, with one HELP committee proposed draft, they suggested that other clinicians should be documenting for physicians, and we got the opinions of nurses across the country, and we said that nurses’ workloads are already stretched out. They ended up changing the draft legislation as a result of our feedback. That’s just one example.