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What a Difference a Year Makes in Health IT!

October 25, 2009
by Rich Temple
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I speak to all of you as I bask in the afterglow of the most recent Delaware Valley / New Jersey HIMSS Annual Conference in Atlantic City (full disclosure – I am the Chapter President of the NJ HIMSS Chapter so perhaps I am at least a tad guilty of “proud papa” syndrome” as I write). From an attendance perspective, our numbers were up over 50% from last year’s well-attended conference. Largely due to all the buzz about health IT and all the money being funneled into it, I no longer am at a loss to explain what I do at cocktail parties these days; folks from all walks of life are all over this. The risk to all this (at least as it relates to cocktail parties) is that you can, in the most inopportune of places, get caught up in detailed discussions with people about such strikingly non-cocktail party chatter as spirited debates on exactly who owns one’s medical information and precisely how would organizations should secure health data that resides in a health information exchange.

All this interest is insanely exciting, and while the focal point of discussions certainly seems to revolve around the ever-evolving concept of “meaningful use”, having this once-in-a-generation opportunity has opened doors for other things that may have seemed way futuristic not all that long ago – things like “personalized medicine”, real manifestations of electronic health records, and true device connectivity. All of these topics were touched on at the DV/NJ HIMSS conference and what was striking was that, this time around, they really did seem a lot closer to reality. We have been talking about, for instance, RHIOs (or to use the proper 2009 term – “HIE”s), well, pretty much, for years, but as a real funding opportunity presented itself from the ONC, and a VERY aggressive timeline for getting enough of an infrastructure to obtain that funding, all of a sudden, lots of great, constructive activity started percolating. I speak from the New Jersey perspective to marvel at how much has happened so quickly on the HIE front here in the State. And I know we are not alone in that regard.

One need look no further to gauge the interest in health IT than to look at some statistics from the New Jersey Chapter of HIMSS. Membership has DOUBLED in the past year and TRIPLED if one goes back two years. Traffic to the NJ HIMSS website has been increasing by leaps and bounds, as people from all across the continuum of health care seek solid resources to navigate through everything that is going on. Health IT is one of the very few areas that is really seen as a serious growth sector and, much to our credit as an industry, is one that can have incredible societal impact – so all of us in health IT can have fun doing what we are doing and know we are contributing productively to our society as a whole through our efforts.

So, yes, it is great to see things kicked into high gear, but the energy and momentum has to continue as these initiatives emerge from the excitement of their birth into having to make tough, challenging decisions as to the long-term operations and sustainability of these programs. We won’t get another chance like this any time soon, probably, so let’s make sure we make the most of this opportunity and not squander the funding that is being provided. Stay accountable, stay focused, and be proud of how we are all making a difference!

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