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Predicting the Tune at HIMSS

February 1, 2006
by John Glaser and Dave Garets
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One of the ways to be perceived as an expert in this industry is to make predictions about various things, but to use a timeframe that’s so far out that nobody remembers (or is alive, for that matter) when the appointed day arrives and your prediction has or has not come true. In our cases, we’ve never been right, but nobody remembers! So we continue to be able to masquerade as experts.

That’s all coming to an end now, because we’re going to predict what you’ll find at this month’s 2006 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Conference and Exposition in San Diego. We’ll be happy if we get half our predictions right, so here goes:

  • There will be lots of people, and they’ll fill up most of the hotels in the San Diego area;
  • Attendees who don’t live near water like we do will "ooh and ah" over the boats in the San Diego Harbor, especially those big gray ones with all the guns at the Naval Station near the convention center;
  • You’ll get to wear a badge with your name on it;
  • There will be lots of booths at the exhibition hall;
  • You’ll have a chance to do your holiday gift shopping by loading up on vendor trinkets and giveaways; and,
  • You’ll have more education sessions than ever from which to choose.

If we were your run-of-the-mill industry experts, we’d stop right here. The predictions above are insightful, actionable and demonstrative of an almost uncanny ability to see the future.

But we are not run-of-the-mill experts. So we’re going to make some even more insightful, almost prescient, predictions. Buckle your seatbelt.

Amazing Prediction #1: There will be lots of talks, including some main tent sessions, where speakers will assert that we’re on the cusp of a revolution in healthcare IT. They’ll invoke the "perfect storm" analogy, and say that "patients must be saved," and "legislation must be passed," and "never has IT been more important than now," and "either get on the train or be left at the station." For many of us, these speeches will bring back fond memories of every single HIMSS conference for the last 15 years! Only this year will be different. And it will be different this year because—well, we’re not sure why it will be different, but it just will be.

Amazing Prediction #2: Actually this year will be different because now we have interoperability. Interoperability will be the buzzword at this year’s conference. Every vendor will say they’re interoperable with every other vendor in the industry. Consulting firms will tout their "interoperability services." Reports will be given on the progress of "interoperability standards," with the assurance that you’ll see the results within your lifetime. We strongly urge you not to hold your breath.

Amazing Prediction #3: Most CIOs will stick around until Wednesday. Historically, they’ve gone home Monday or Tuesday, much to the chagrin of the vendors on the exhibit floor. This year, however, we are also predicting a much colder than normal winter; and the conference is in San Diego, which is a very nice and warm place. Also, the CIOs, knowing that we’re on the cusp of a revolution in healthcare IT, will want to hang around for an extra day to witness all the interoperability on the exhibit hall floor. The difference between integration and interoperability won’t be clear to them or anyone else, but it will take them the first three days of the week to figure out that they still can’t tell the difference.

Amazing Prediction #4: You’ll see people with short haircuts at the conference who haven’t been there in force before. Folks like representatives from defense contractors, better known for supplying jet aircraft to defense departments around the world. They are coming, along with their "Beltway Bandit" consulting firm partners, because they smell lots of money getting ready to be spent on regional health information networks (RHIOs), and they want their share!

Amazing Prediction #5:Speaking of RHIOs, there will be much ink spilt, and breath spent, on discussions of the "collaborative exchange of standardized health information for the benefit of all Americans." Those of us who have been here before, say in the mid-’90s, will observe that the key to the success of these exchanges is not standards or interoperability; but rather, mind altering drugs that cause hospital CEOs to say, "Let’s share our data with our competitors so that we can all live in harmony and learn to love each other."

Amazing Prediction #6:Several hundred new vendors will have booths at the conference, most of whom you’re unacquainted with. Many will be there because they sense a boatload (one of the big gray ones with lots of guns) full of money to be spent by healthcare organizations on IT in the coming years, and they want a piece of the action. They are sure that there is no difference between a hospital and a manufacturer, or between a bank clerk and a nurse. Remember them, and get as many of their trinkets as you can; because in 2007, most of them won’t be back.

Amazing Prediction #7:You will not see a vendor booth with a sign that says "our product almost works," or a session presenter who says, "We really screwed up an implementation proving that we are inept," or a main session speaker who says, "Spending more on healthcare IT would be a scandalous waste of money.

That’s it for our predictions. We actually have more predictions, but we want to save some for our booth on the exhibit floor where, for a modest fee, we will also guess your age and weight, and tell bad jokes.

Enjoy the conference!