In the midst of a buzz of activity at the World of Health IT (WoHIT) conference, being held last week in Barcelona, Spain, H. Stephen (Steve) Lieber, president and CEO of the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), sat down to speak with Healthcare Informatics Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland about the World of Health IT conference, commonalities in terms of challenges and opportunities among healthcare IT leaders worldwide, and what the future holds. He also spoke with Hagland about the new partnership announced during WoHIT, between HIMSS and the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), in which CHIME will be a partner with HIMSS on international conferences such as the World of Health IT conference. Below are excerpts from that interview.
I’ve been told that there are about 1,000 attendees here at the conference? And how many vendor participants are there here?
Yes, that’s right, at the moment, we’re counting about 1,000 attendees—and about 45 vendor companies participating.
This conference has taken on different forms, correct?
Yes, essentially two different forms. There have been years where we’ve had a combined eHealthWeek and World of Health IT. We were in Riga, Latvia—a combined ministerial eHealthWeek and World of Health IT, last year. About the past five or six years, we’ve done a combined ministerial event and World of Health IT. So in June, we had eHealthWeek, that was the ministerial event; this is designed to be less focused on policy, and more on practice. The ministerial event rotates with the presidency of the European Union. Sometimes that works well, sometimes, it’s a smaller country, so we’ve separated them. But we’ve held an intermittent World of Health IT conference since 2006.
Tell me a bit more about your new partnership with CHIME?
We announced at the opening session today that HIMSS and CHIME have entered into an agreement, in which we will operate outside the United States as a single entity. So it’s the HIMSS staff that’s here—we have offices in the U.K., Germany, and Singapore. And we will present many things under a co-branding agreement. Of course, some things will remain particular to each organization. The EMRAM [the HIMSS Analytics schematic that describes and documents the evolution and advancement of clinical information systems in patient care organizations, both in the United States and worldwide] is HIMSS; EMR certification is CHIME [a CHIME process]. So we’ll present this as an event that is HIMSS-CHIME International.
HIMSS has really become totally international at this point, correct?
Yes, that’s correct; we’re operating actively in about 35 countries in the world now. We have things going on in probably 15 more, but those more one-off things. But yes, we have sustained activity now in about 35 countries.
On a personal level, you must be constantly traveling, Steve?
Yes, though I’m only the third-most traveled staff member! We actually have two staff members who travel more than I do!
When you look at information systems development and at the evolution of the roles of healthcare IT leaders, on an international level what are you and your colleagues at HIMSS trying to accomplish these days? Where are the opportunities for the association as an international organization?
The mission of HIMSS for a long time—that is, transforming healthcare through better patient outcomes, higher quality, fewer medical errors, and higher patient and clinician satisfaction—all of those are possible through the adoption of technology, and we’re just trying to extend that concept. And we’re not trying to proselytize from the U.S. to the rest of the world; we’re just trying to engage people all over the world, and are creating and developing events that allow people to share insights with one another and learn from one another.
It’s astonishing how similar the concepts are internationally, such as security; in the panel that I moderated on security issues around medical devices, the issues that were brought up really were fundamentally similar internationally, even as the policy landscapes differ by country. And the population health issues are fundamentally similar as well.
That’s right, exactly. And I’ve found that I can do virtually the same presentations anywhere in the world. And we don’t do much around payment per se, and that’s one area with differences. But when it comes to healthcare and what technology can do, it’s cost, quality, and access. Everybody thinks healthcare costs too much, and recognizes that the quality isn’t what it should be, and everybody has challenges getting the care that’s needed. In the U.S., that translates into insurance access. But even in other countries, there are access issues that are common across the world. People go to doctors, they get sick, they need care. And leaders in all the world’s health systems are struggling with fundamentally similar problems.
And the explosion in chronic illness is becoming truly global; I heard a presentation recently by an American consultant who is working in a major Middle Eastern country that has a surreal level of type-2 diabetes—over 60 percent of the population of one country!
That’s right, and you add to that the aging of the population, which is also global, and is even worse right now in Europe—yes, these issues are universal.
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