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Bright Horizons

January 31, 2011
by Mark Hagland
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H. Stephen Lieber Reflects on the Industry Maelstrom That's Keeping Himss as Relevant as Ever
H. Stephen Lieber
H. Stephen Lieber

In the 10 years since H. Stephen Lieber joined the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), both the healthcare industry and the annual HIMSS Conference (being held this year at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Feb. 20-24) have gone through major changes. In fact, HIMSS' president and CEO says, given the passage of comprehensive federal healthcare reform last year, the passage of the federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act/Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (ARRA-HITECH) Act in 2009, and the ramp-up to the transition from the ICD-9 coding system to the ICD-10 system, as well as a host of other developments, the HIMSS organization and the HIMSS Conference remain as relevant as ever to the healthcare IT industry.

HCI Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland spoke to Lieber in late December, to get his read on the industry and perspectives regarding HIMSS 2011. Below are excerpts from that interview.

Healthcare Informatics: So many things going on now, in terms of HITECH, healthcare reform, HIPAA, ICD-10. It seems as though there are more reasons than ever for people to turn to HIMSS and the HIMSS Conference for information and insights.

THERE ARE HUGE CHALLENGES AHEAD AS EVERYONE PREPARES FOR THINGS LIKE ICD-10 AND HITECH. BUT WE BELIEVE IT'S A DOABLE JOB; NOT THAT IT'S WITHOUT ITS CHALLENGES.

H. Stephen Lieber: Yes, the list of drivers of healthcare change is huge now. In terms of the conference, we're going to be doing the same types of things we've always done-a heavy focus on education, on thought leadership across the major topics; creating online and in-person opportunities for professionals to exchange experiences, for vendors to be able to demonstrate their capabilities. It's a very exciting time for the organization. There are huge challenges ahead as everyone prepares for things like ICD-10 and HITECH. But we believe it's a doable job; not that it's without its challenges. But the attitude we pick up from CIOs and from physicians closely in touch with the technology side, is that, while it's challenging, it's doable.

HCI: Will people be seeing any major changes at the conference this year?

Lieber: There are a couple of things we'll be doing a bit differently. We're doing two conferences within the conference. One is called HIT X.0: Beyond the Edge. It's a concept building off the 2.0-type vernacular. It's very much focused on new technologies, mobile technologies, different types of technologies than you'd find normally at the conference. It runs through the whole week, but we've designed it not to be a track. We're trying to appeal to an audience that didn't necessarily see our conference as a place to go because they perceived it as a conference about big, core systems. So we've designed this as a standalone conference; anyone who attends HIMSS can attend this as well. And the layout of the educational sessions will be much more interactive; and the subject matter is different. And well over half of the people signing up for this conference [HIT X.0] have never attended a HIMSS conference.

The second one is actually a more traditional conference-within-a-conference, and takes place Wednesday and Thursday, and is focused on building accountable care organizations. And that one will take place at the Peabody, and will be focused on the technology requirements for supporting ACOs.

HCI: What do you expect the attendance to be at HIMSS 2011?

Lieber: I'll go out on a limb here, but I think there's the very real possibility that we might exceed 30,000.

HCI: Some in past years had predicted that the HIMSS Conference would soon become irrelevant, but in fact, it seems more relevant than ever these days, given everything going on in the industry.

Lieber: That's right. The environment has changed dramatically in the last three years. When you've got the federal government mandating such major changes, there's just no way a patient care organization can operate without support from a strong association. So our relevance is at a peak right now. And it's reflected when we look at our membership numbers and our attendance numbers. We've already exceeded the square footage of last year's show, and we'll probably have around 150 more companies than last year, depending on space. We had over 900 last year; I don't think we'll really have room for 1,050; we may run out of space. We've got an unprecedented number of new companies this year. And we've got a higher volume of renewals than last year. But we're running about 10 to 14 percent above last year on the exhibitor side as well. In fact, I would have expected 10 years ago that we would have reached a maturation of the vendor audience, but the industry has changed.

WHEN YOU'VE GOT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT MANDATING SUCH MAJOR CHANGES, THERE'S JUST NO WAY A PATIENT CARE ORGANIZATION CAN OPERATE WITHOUT SUPPORT FROM A STRONG ASSOCIATION.

HCI: What is your vision for the HIMSS Conference for the next few years?

Lieber: I think it's a continuation of the philosophy that actually predates my tenure here; and that is, this is the place to be if you're going to operate in the X.0 space. And it's not just about the traditional clinical systems, it's about the new technology; so we'll continue to expand the scope of the conference, expand the audiences we're continuing to attract to the conference. We're thinking the HIMSS Conference or the HIMSS week may even evolve into something even bigger, as we look to attract related groups to put on events in satellite hotels, etc. You know, when you pull 30,000 people together in the health information technology space, more than likely, most of the key people are there. Anyone looking to attract attention from this group will want to be there. So we'll continue to grow and attract new audiences, but we'll also look to collaborate with other groups as well.

For comprehensive information on HIMSS 2011, please go to the HIMSS Web site, at www.himss.org. Healthcare Informatics 2011 February;28(2):52-54


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