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A Speech Not Easy to Forget

December 5, 2011
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HHS' Todd Park left an impact at this year's Digital Health Conference

Todd Park

If there is a lasting image from this year’s New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC) Digital Conference in New York City, it was the crowd of 600 attendees giving Todd Park, chief technology officer at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a rousing ovation after his keynote address.

The riveting speech is one that Park has delivered before. Healthcare Informatics Editor-In-Chief Mark Hagland heard it at the Merge Live 2011 Client Conference in Chicago. HCI Associate Editor Jennifer Prestigiacomo heard it at the 2011 National Forum on Health Information Exchange in Washington D.C. Yet, I have a feeling even if I heard the same speech again, word-for-word, I’d still be enthralled.

As someone who is still new to covering the health IT industry, what worked for me is that Park put the issues facing providers into clear, easy-to-understand terms. He talked about the two “mega-trends” that are pushing HIT into a golden era of innovation: the shift in incentives and what he calls “information liberacion.” He went into detail about the specific initiatives that are spurring innovation in HIT.

Quite simply, if you left Park’s speech without a clearer understanding of the issues, you probably weren’t paying attention.

But more than that, he did it with incredible enthusiasm. It’s not easy for any expert to explain why the HIT industry is at a critical crossroads as clearly as Park has done. It’s even harder to do it with the zeal and vigor that brings a crowd to its feet. This is particularly impressive for a federal administrator.

I wasn’t the only one who was left with an indelible impression of Park’s speech. As I mentioned in my recent report on the speech, many of the subsequent panelists noted how Park was a tough act to follow. Panelists such as Jason Shapiro, M.D., M.A. and associate professor at Mount Sinai Medical Center and A. John Blair III, M.D. and FACS, cited specifics from the speech, using it to propel their own topics.

For most attendees, however, it was the speech’s exciting tone that had them talking afterwards. It is clear HHS has found someone that is capable of leading the industry forward as it encounters the oncoming wave of healthcare IT innovation.