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HIMSS 2011: Questions, Questions

February 28, 2011
by Bobbie Byrne, M.D.
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Where did all these vendors come from? And other ponderables from this year’s conference experience

Are you sick of HIMSS 2011? If yes, you can skip this post, and move on to checking your Groupon for the day, the weather or your horoscope, because this is my set of reflections on HIMSS 2011. It has taken me a few days to process the entire sensory overload, so here goes…

Where did all these vendors come from?
I have attended the last 8 HIMSS and it never fails to amaze me how many vendors there are. This year in particular seemed to be full of HIMSS virgins. The money being spent is incredible—not just for the booth, electricity and Internet but also for the sales people to lean on the displays, check their cell phones and ignore me.

Do booth-babes really sell software?
I am sure that it can increase some male booth traffic, but the booth-babes stratagem is woman-neutral at best. Some booths are actually woman-repellants. Should you actually eliminate half of your potential check-writers? I don’t even know what to say about the “cirque de Lawson”—though it did make me pause dead in the aisle. We are already Lawson customers but I did not venture past the contortionists.

Do no other organizations have compliance officers?
At Edward, we cannot accept gifts from vendors unless they are considered “de minimis” —like a pen or a water bottle. I am quite certain that the iPods being given away would not meet this standard.

Does anyone really stay to hear the Thursday speaker?
Considering all the familiar faces I saw in the airport on Wednesday. I would venture to say that even the Starbucks line at the convention center was a ghost town prior to Michael J. Fox.

Why can’t the big shots just be honest?
I was at a small session where a very well known CIO claimed that he had videotaped the two finalists in his enterprise vendor selection, burned CDs and sent them around to thousands of stake-holders. Great idea except he didn’t do it. I know because even though it was almost seven years ago—I was there—and there was no video camera. Not sure why it bothers me so much. Maybe he misspoke or maybe he thought that in that small group, how would anyone know differently.

Is vendor fragmentation a good thing?
Both Kathleen Sebelius and David Blumenthal bragged that 75 percent of the certified EMR vendors were companies with less than 50 employees. Their assertion was that small companies drive innovation. I am all in favor of good old American ingenuity, but I am much more in favor of my vendor still having the lights on for Stage 2.

Why does bad news always seem to surface at HIMSS?
Maybe this is more a reflection of my age than anything else, but I am really saddened by most of the news I heard. I did not hear of one wedding, birth, or Nobel Prize won. I did hear that two well-respected former colleagues, both in their 40s, have cancer.

Do you have to use Epic in order to do a presentation?
They claim to have only 230 or so customers, but at every presentation that I attended where a system was mentioned –it was Epic.

And finally, when can I actually start to answer my phone again?
It must have been a single millisecond between the time that I registered for HIMSS and the time my contact information was sold to vendors. It was only another millisecond until my office phone started ringing off the hook.

I hate to be rude, so these days, I just don’t answer.

 

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Comments

Can't say that I disagree. In fact planned obsolescence is a good way to assure future revenue streams.

Of course, considering how much work it takes to get these systems actually installed, I hate the idea of rip and replace.
And we all know the success of vendors' "Migration Paths". I am living the dream right now from Meditech Magic to 6.0!

I would also love a MJ Fox link as well. Nothing on YouTube when I looked.

Bobbie,
Thanks for your post. You captured some of the real flavor.

In your "fragmentation" observation, you captured one of my major learnings from HIMSS 2011: Politics, Standards, and respect for appropriate prior investments and experience don't mix. Several of the real gurus from the recent decade shared the same kind of disappointment that you did about praising small upstarts and the new, new thing. It sounded like this: "in recent years, at the HIMSS IHE Interoperability Showcase, over a hundred major vendors demonstrated strict conformance to proven international standards and interoperabilty (S & I Framework). It's painful to hear ONC describe that as a market failure, and move to develop and adopt new national ones."

That's probably an over-generalization, but none of the half dozen ONC presentations I attended put the S & I framework in historical or global perspective. Did I miss the seminal exception? Could someone please post a link to that presentation in the comments here?

Regarding the last day, in a rare exception to my past years, I attended the Thursday presentations. What a treat. Michael J Fox was outstanding. Funny, brilliant, poignant. Followed by Don Berwick's first time at HIMSS, and, as head of CMS. Talk about Black Swans! Then, Richard Boyd, Chief Architect at Lockheed Martin Virtual World Labs closed the show with a true look into the future of technology to augment human learning.

I just wish HIMSS had a more compelling (ie non-streaming) eLearning offering this year so that those who not attend could share the experience.

First, it is booth bait, not booth babes, but never mind. You should see a telco conference.

Second, while meaningful use and ARRA is driving sales, it is also driving commoditization. Why have a truly innovative product if the government sets the standard and ensures you have customers?

At some point, I predict in a year or so, the money will run out, the market will be saturated, then some company we barely know will come to market with a truly innovative product (not based on boring Windows), with a radically more adept UI, integrates with everything, and costs a lot less because it comes as a mass market technology and go to market approach.

Whatever EHR or HIE you are thinking about today is probably going to be obsolete (statistically it is likely the company will be gone, or product will be retired) in 3-5 years. Smart providers, with a five year time horizon, are planning replacement now.

I can hear the moaning now.

Great thoughts. As a husband and a father of two daughters (and a CIO), I would never give a vendor using both babes the time of day, even after the conference.

I also agree about the giveaways. I had to say no thanks to iPads, iPods, flip cameras, etc. However, I did eat about $100 of candy, but it was spread over 1,000 booths.

Enjoyed reading the post of Dr. Byrne and the follow up comments. Hilarious and great points! Is the talk of Michael J. Fox at HIMSS '11 available on youtube? Appreciate if anyone could share video links.

OoohI guess I am sorry I did not stay until Thursday but I would expect that I won't next year either.

I did not get to the interop showcase this year though have loved it in the pastand those TSGs (technical smart guys) are some of the greatest unsung heros of HIT.

And I probably ate $100 of candy as wellguess my future career as a booth babe is now squashed!! Darn.

Bobbie Byrne

Vice President for Health Information Technology at Edward Hospital in Naperville, Ill

Bobbie Byrne M.D. writes about being a community hospital CIO all the while trying to figure out...