Alas, we’ve reached the end of another year of HIMSSanity.
So long Chicago. I’d say we hardly knew ye but that’s not entirely true. We knew certain parts of the city pretty well, especially the McCormick Center.
If HIMSS felt more hectic and more intense, with more events, more sessions, more information to consume, more exhibits, and more people. It was all of those things and more. There were dual records of 43,129 attendees and 1,326 exhibiting vendors. At times, it felt like those numbers were actually low.
At our corner of the web, the dedicated team of HCI editors and contributors kept up and produced a record amount of copy, with nearly 60 articles, blogs, or news items written over the course of the five-day event. I hope you kept up with us on our HIMSS feed. If you didn’t, check it out and check out all that you missed. Plus, there will be more HIMSS-related content in the coming days and weeks.
For me personally, the past week was a whirlwind. It started last Friday when the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) released a crucial report on vendor-based information blocking. For those of us that follow the industry, it’s hard to believe that this happened less than a week ago! Later that day, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) decided to drop a proposed rule on meaningful use that created a 90-day reporting timeline for 2015, reduced the overall number of objectives, removed redundant measures, and for whatever reason, gutted a controversial patient engagement requirement.
In hindsight, having those two things happen the day before I flew out for HIMSS was probably a sign of things to come.
Starting Sunday, the week was a constant wave of meetings, press conferences, and keynotes, while navigating the McCormick Center. There was clarification on the recent policy changes, notable anger on the changing patient engagement requirements, population health and risk-based sharing buzzwords coming into focus, a former President not being able to say interoperability, lots of FHIR talk, major health IT vendors announcing acquisitions, other major health IT vendors reportedly deciding to kill off fees for record-sharing, and Tuesday night, as I sat eating deep dish pizza, the Senate decided to vote in favor that game-changing (for health IT and obviously, for Medicare) repeal of the sustainable growth rate (SGR).
Phew. I feel like I have to take a breath after just typing that. And that was only some of it what happened this week!
The craziness of HIMSS and health IT in general can be boiled down to a really good quote, that I heard ironically in the last session I attended on Thursday. It was said by Richard Swafford, Ph.D. the former executive director of the Inland Empire Health Information Exchange (HIE) in Southern California. Dr. Swafford was talking about HIE sustainability (it was a great case study, which I’ll be writing up in the near future) but the quote fits the overall picture that health IT leaders are facing on a daily basis. He said:
“We’re still in an unpredictable market as it relates to healthcare and healthcare technology. I think we have a general course, but I’m not sure it won’t veer off in some crazy direction in the near future. We still have a little uncertainty around the market. From a regulation perspective, from an ONC perspective, HHS and the state level, we’re still not entirely sure where we’re going to end up. They’re doing a fantastic job but I’m not certain we have a locked-in direction. The lesson is that you have to be agile to figure out how the direction is changing. It’s changing constantly. We never know day-to-day what's coming next, meaningful use requirements, the new HIPAA release, state regulations, the general feel of the market and how it shifts and flexes. The market from an economic perspective, how it shifts and flexes. It’s difficult to build any kind of long-term strategic plan around a [industry] that changes every 2-3 months.”
The quote is long, but it really is apt. I can’t help but think about all you health IT leaders out there, dealing with these constant shifts while trying to achieve long-term goals and monitoring the day-to-day operations of your organization.