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Live from Union Station in Chicago: Post-HIMSS

April 8, 2009
by Rich Temple
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It was a very good and very fun HIMSS. Got to connect with old friends, meet new ones, and have the chance to get a pretty good lay-of-the-land of what is going on in this turbulent but exciting health IT landscape. Particular fun was had with the good folks of the very magazine who maintain this blog space.

I continue to be struck by the following thought. If someone had told me two years ago that we would have a President who not only “got” health IT at a detailed level, but was going to make it one of his highest priorities and put BILLIONS of dollars into it (should I say “IT” instead of “it”?), I would have questioned their sanity. But here we are, blessed with a rather incredible problem to have – how to allocate billions of dollars for worthy IT causes - but cursed (at least for right now) with not having a clear road map for ensuring those dollars go toward the betterment of the healthcare space as a whole as well as the health technology landscape in the specific.

Many people I spoke to alluded to a sense of frustration that they spent five days at HIMSS and still don’t have a better sense of what “meaningful use” may be, how to apply for the grant money for worthy interoperability projects, and how to integrate these new funds into future capital planning initiatives. I am hopeful that we will have somewhat of a better sense of the “whats” and the “hows” after May 18th, when the ONCHIT is supposed to provide some more detail on the meat-and-potatoes of implementing this progressive legislation. But, I fear that the squeakiest wheels or the most effective individual lobbies may walk away with lots of this money and we, as a society, may not have that much to show for it. As I note, I remain optimistic, but not without a shred or two of trepidation.

Chicago turned out to be an excellent place to host a HIMSS. Although McCormick Place was a bus ride away from all but one hotel, and the buses often got stuck in traffic, having such an abundance of interesting dining and nightlife options was really quite special. There were lots of really nice neighborhoods to at least see from a bus or a cab and, as a New Yorker; I always get a similar charge out of walking around Chicago as I do in walking around New York. While this is the first time I got snowed on at a HIMSS conference, it really didn’t mess us up that much.

Common themes for the HIMSS this year – “interoperability”, “meaningful use”, “ARRA”. Many previous HIMSS seemed to have a common theme that was going to change the world, only to be somewhat subsumed by reality as time passed. This one might just be different.

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