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At HIMSS, Passion Becomes Contagious

March 12, 2013
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In the midst of all the pre-conference symposium events, education seminars, keynote sessions and countless meetings at HIMSS last week, it would be easy to get caught up in the chaotic atmosphere and lose sense of the reason why we’re all there in the first place.  

To be honest, that is something that almost happened to me a few times. But the one thing that kept me upright as I shared my first HIMSS experience with nearly  35,000 of my closest health IT friends, was a certain vibe surrounding the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, and in a way, the city itself. This was a type of energy I began to feel on my taxi ride from the airport to my hotel last weekend, and one that has stuck with me since I’ve been home in New Jersey.

What I am referring to is the feeling of passion in this industry, one that, despite not attending any previous HIMSSes, I am fairly certain has not existed before. Many of the people I met with and spoke to at the conference shared this sentiment with me, calling it “contagious.” They all commented on how, now, more than ever, this is such an exciting time in our industry, as we move towards the new healthcare.

It would be hard to talk about health IT passion without first bringing up Farzad Mostashari, M.D., national coordinator for health IT, who spoke at HCI’s Innovator Awards reception on March 4, stating how our event stood out to him because it recognized innovation in the industry. Motstashari spoke passionately on how innovation is necessary as health IT continues to develop.

Former President Bill Clinton also spoke inspiringly about the future of the industry, putting responsibility on the shoulders of the attendees. “With the help of IT, we can get U.S. healthcare costs in line with those of other advanced countries. I’ve told you all these troubling things,” he said, citing well-known statistics around the vast disparities between U.S. healthcare spending levels and those of other advanced, industrialized nations. “But you can fix them. We cannot however allow a lack of transparency or a determination to hang onto the present market, or a disempowerment of people, to keep us from doing it.”

And it was hard not to get inspired when James L. “Larry” Holly, a co-founder of Southeast Texas Medical Associates (SETMA), in Beaumont, Texas, told me his story about becoming a recognized patient-centered medical home (PCMH). Holly stressed to me that it is the behavior that needs to change in order to become more successful and efficient in the future. “Attitude is crucial, and that is what really needs to change,” he said. “That drive that gets people up early in the morning and makes them exhausted when they go to bed will change healthcare. People who say they are perfect don’t impress me. I’m impressed by the person who says, ‘I want to be perfect,’ and then moves in the right direction.”

Perfection might be hard to achieve, but with motivation and attitude, success is obtainable. And as providers and patients continue to work together, better outcomes and improved healthcare will be the result. In fact, patient engagement was a core issue that generated lots of buzz at HIMSS, which is not particularly surprising, considering federal regulations and meaningful use requirements urge hospitals to use health information technology and other initiatives to increase patient activity, understanding and compliance.

Of course, like anything else, these issues don’t come without challenges. No matter how much passion and motivation is put into something, it’s not always easy. Concerns exist in every spectrum of the industry, from big data to interoperability to meaningful use and much more. But as Doug Fridsma, director of the Office of the National Coordinator’s (ONC) office of science and technology said during ONC’s Town Hall, interoperability is not a destination, it’s a journey, in the sense that it’s constantly evolving. Rules and regulations will always be needed to guide the way, but the motivation to develop and advance is something that can drive performance.

So in an industry that is full of strategic challenges and questions, it’s refreshing to feel the constant energy of those involved. The passion to improve care is the reason why so many got into this industry, and this was as important of a reminder as any at HIMSS.