Beyond Center Stage at HIMSS

The annual conference of the Health Information and Management Systems Society, HIMSS, is notorious for its size. This year’s event — March 1-4 in Atlanta — drew 27,855 health IT professionals, clinicians, and vendor representatives. The Exhibit Hall featured 934 companies and was packed most of the time.

Although many professional communities gather formally or informally at HIMSS, each with its own special interests, some aspect of technology challenge or solution asserts itself each year as a central theme. Planning for electronic medical records consistent with the HITECH Act and its requirements for Meaningful Use certainly took center stage this year.

Each year at HIMSS I attend educational sessions, visit exhibiting companies to learn how their latest products improve patient safety and the quality of care, and meet with a individuals who may be interested in writing for PSQH. I also enjoy the opportunity to catch up with my colleagues in the press, which now includes bloggers and users of Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media. This year, HIMSS offered three 90-minute sessions called “Meet the Bloggers,” with an impressive collection of 16 writers who cover healthcare (including but not limited to IT). For analysis and overview of this year’s HIMSS conference, I recommend visiting some of their blogs, perhaps starting with John Halamka and John Moore. (“Meet the Bloggers” above links directly to all 16 blogs.)

For a HIMSS highlight, I recommend a video that Matthew Holt has posted to The Health Care Blog. During his talk about innovation, our federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra described how an impromptu 911 equivalent was created for earthquake victims in Haiti. Briefly, the solution involved having people in need of help send a text message from their cell phone to 4636. A private cloud service controlled by the U.S. military, muti-lingual volunteers, and NGOs worked together and quickly created an effective solution. In Matthew’s words, “the solution was “a mash-up of the military, a silicon valley start-up called Crowdflower, and creole speakers across the world.

This was one of my favorite HIMSS moments. Chopra is always engaging and provocative. His call for innovation and making appropriate use of all tools — from the most sophisticated to the most accessible — to “connect people in ways we hadn’t imagined” and to improve healthcare provided good balance for the act on center stage. Did you attend HIMSS?

What were your high and low moments?