Steve Lieber Reflects on his Retirement, the Future of HIMSS, and the Future of Healthcare | Healthcare Informatics Magazine | Health IT | Information Technology Skip to content Skip to navigation

Steve Lieber Reflects on his Retirement, the Future of HIMSS, and the Future of Healthcare

December 21, 2016
by Mark Hagland
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Steve Lieber reflects on his 16-plus years at the helm of HIMSS, and on the future

H. Stephen (Steve) Lieber has served as president and CEO of the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) since April 2000. On Dec. 19, HIMSS announced that Lieber is planning to retire during 2017, and that a search for his replacement will begin immediately.

According to the news announcement that HIMSS released on Monday afternoon on its website, “Lieber, 63, assumed this role in April 2000 and has led HIMSS through a period of significant change in healthcare and information technology. During his tenure, HIMSS has become an influential association voice, thought leader, resource and advisor driving global transformation of health and healthcare through the best use of IT. Lieber has been a significant figure within HIMSS, the American healthcare community and globally as governments, care delivery organizations, clinicians and others have embraced health IT as a primary asset in addressing problems associated with the cost, quality and access of health and care. Under his leadership,” the announcement stated, “HIMSS has built a global operation annually reaching hundreds of thousands of engaged healthcare professionals in more than 35 countries through its educational programs, public policy leadership, strategic advisory and assessment services, membership and community networks, and other services.”

On Tuesday, the day after the HIMSS announcement, Lieber spoke with Healthcare Informatics Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland about his impending retirement, the evolution of HIMSS as an organization, and the current moment in healthcare and healthcare IT. Below are excerpts from that interview.

You’ve been at the helm of HIMSS for sixteen-and-half years now. How might you summarize the arc of those years, both in terms of your tenure, and in terms of how HIMSS has evolved forward as an organization?

What has happened is that HIMSS has evolved from a membership organization that ran a trade show, into something very different. And in all honesty, I’m trying to be very kind to the people before me, and all—but HIMSS was not an influential voice, was not at the table in Washington, talking about changes in legislation or regulation, when I came on board. And over the last 16-plus years, we certainly have changed that dynamic. And we’ve become recognized as the largest voice of multiple stakeholders—we’re not just the voice of vendors, of clinicians, of providers, of IT folks—and of government as well. So as a result, we’ve achieved a level of credibility and independence of voice that really has made a significant difference in healthcare and in the use of technology in healthcare. That’s how I’d summarize what we’ve done. We can look at what we’ve done and really see a valued contribution to the worlds of healthcare delivery and healthcare policy.

H. Stephen Lieber

Do you have any regrets about anything that has happened? And in any case, what do you view as your most important achievements during your tenure?

No, I have no regrets at all. Honestly, when this job opened up in the fall of 1999, I was running a division of the American Hospital Association, and I knew that this was a job I wanted; and I knew it was a job that had very significant potential and opportunity in healthcare. I’m incredibly fortunate to have been put in this position, so I have absolutely no regrets. I’ve also been incredibly fortunate to have an unbroken string of extremely supportive volunteer leaders. We have our disagreements like everyone else, but at the end of the day, we always find a good path forward together.

Meanwhile, in terms of achievements, I look at HIMSS Analytics and their having created a global standard for IT evolution that is accepted [with regard to the HIMSS Analytics EMRAM schematic for electronic health record and clinical IT adoption]. It’s the ability to bring everybody to a common place in looking at a problem and searching for common solutions; you can see how you are compared to everyone else. So that’s one example. And beyond that, it’s been our ability to work in so many countries. We now operate in, on average, 35 to 38 countries, every year. And we’re bringing a considerable difference in helping people understand the barriers and how to overcome them. And, as an example, using the EMRAM as a tool; and the biggest accomplishment is in what we’ve been able to do in helping clinicians, providers, IT, and government, in various places. I really feel we’ve accomplished a lot.

How many people were on staff when you started back in the spring of 2000?

There were 32 employees when I started, and today we have 400. And those people were sitting on one floor in a building on East Ohio, and today, those people are scattered across the globe. Our operating budget that first year was about $11 million; and this year, it will be about $90-92 million.

You’re deriving tens of millions from the HIMSS Annual Conference, correct?

That’s correct.

That leads to a question I was going to ask about the one negative critique I hear consistently about HIMSS as an organization. And that is that some people believe that HIMSS as an organization is too much about the numbers, about the revenues.


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