HIMSS15 Conference to Deliver on Health IT’s Value

Harnessing IT. Improving outcomes. Transforming health. This is the theme of the 2015 HIMSS Conference & Exhibition taking place in Chicago, April 12-16. Sessions, exhibits and networking offerings all are designed to focus on how providers can shift from implementing health IT to reaping its potential of improved outcomes and lower costs.

Keynote speakers

The biggest name this year is 43rd U.S. president George W. Bush. It was Bush who said during his 2004 State of the Union address that he hoped every American would have an electronic medical record within 10 years. He will reflect on his eight years in the Oval Office during his keynote address on April 15. 

When the executive team drafted its list of possible speakers, Bush was at the top of the list, says Karen Malone, HIMSS vice president of meeting services. Since former President Bill Clinton spoke in 2013 and Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke last year, “we knew it was time we had someone who is a Republican leader. Bush made a lot of sense since it was during his administration that EHRs started to become a reality.”

Other keynote speakers include Alexander W. Gourlay, president of Walgreens, and Bruce D. Broussard, president and CEO of Humana. These speakers “align well with what’s going on when you think about healthcare delivery today and patient engagement,” says Malone. 

Both of these speakers and their companies are “very much involved in engaging patients more in managing their healthcare and helping the general public be healthier.” Both men will offer their perspective on how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is impacting providers and the role of consumers. “We felt both were extremely timely in light of what’s happened with the ACA.”

New offerings

New this year is HIMSS’ HX360 initiative which was developed with AVIA, a provider-led innovation accelerator. The program involves CEOs from hospitals and systems talking peer-to-peer about the challenges they face running their organizations. The initiative includes programming for attendees interested in next generation technology as well as exhibit floor components such as start-up companies and areas devoted to specific challenges including patient retention and engagement. Malone says HX360 also will include a venture capital forum focusing on innovation.

While many of these components have been part of the conference in past years, “we’re putting them on steroids and putting them all in one place for a much more targeted area.”

Another new feature this year is the Cybersecurity Command Center. “We realized we had to do something about security with everything going on right now in the news regarding data security breaches,” says Malone. Attendees can listen to experts in the field that have faced a threat, compete in challenges on phishing, identity fraud, and intellectual property theft, test their cybersecurity IQ, and learn about products and services available as well as education and advocacy efforts.

The Health IT Value Suite also will be in the exhibit hall showcasing success stories in the areas of clinical decision support, remote monitoring, clinical analytics, information exchange for care coordination, patient safety and accountable care.

Attendees can meet value realization experts and learn about organizations that have seen value across each of the five HIMSS Health IT Value STEPS categories: satisfaction, treatment/clinical, electronic information/data, prevention and patient education, and savings. “It’s all about what’s been done to really illustrate the value of health IT,” says Malone. Visitors can watch success stories and learn how organizations achieved their goals.

Also new this year is the Disaster Preparedness Knowledge Center. Given the recent Ebola situation and weather-related challenges, “we felt it was important to call that out,” she says. Visitors can learn how to prepare to manage external and internal emergencies by ensuring that adequate contingency plans are in place. They also can explore tools to apply before, during and after a disaster.

Another popular destination in the exhibit hall is the Interoperability Showcase where attendees can “see the reality of interoperability,” says Joyce Sensmeier, RN-BC, MS, HIMSS vice president of informatics. The showcase has gotten bigger every year, she notes. “The exciting part is that it’s not just vendors and agencies but really a live demonstration environment.”

 In collaboration with Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE), the showcase offers visitors the opportunity to tour one of four health journeys to experience a clinically accurate continuum of care that explores multiple use cases for standards-based health information exchange. There will be more than 100 live clinical information systems simulating health collaboratively demonstrating a wide breadth of care settings, including acute and ambulatory workflows and the systems used therein. Visitors can see firsthand how IHE Profiles, built around standards-based transactions, bring clinical information to the right person at the right time.

Lots to learn

Education begins prior to the official conference with 10 different daylong symposia and two workshops held on Sunday, April 12. “People really enjoy the ability to do a deep dive into a particular topic to immerse themselves all day long,” says JoAnn Klinedinst, PMP, HIMSS vice president of professional development. These programs have and continue to be well-received, she says, because they “fill a void that our attendees cannot readily experience in the general education programming.”

Those who opt for Preconference Plus can create customized learning by choosing sessions from multiple symposia.

The special offerings as well as general education sessions have “innovation sprinkled in,” she says. Sessions will discuss product lifecycle and how to bring ideas to life as well as culture and changing the mindset.”

Expect good representation from federal agencies because they have been allocated more sessions this year. Attendees can attend a Congressional forum, a session comprised of state officials and hear from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality Federal and many more. From these sessions to exhibit booths and networking opportunities, “we have a strong and robust federal program,” Klinedinst promises. Attendees also can visit the Federal Health IT Solutions Pavilion on the exhibit hall floor.

As of press time, they were working on involving still more federal agencies, with the FBI committing its participation.

The conference will shift its focus away from implementation of health IT, says Klinedinst. “We’re almost at the optimization side of things after a very concerted effort on implementation, upgrade and replacement of systems. Implementations are truly exciting but the optimization and refinement of the use of these systems around people, processes and technologies are just as important. Our program certainly supports that.”

The healthcare industry continues to evolve and “there really is no other place you can get such an immense amount of information about healthcare and technology in one place,” says Malone. Attendance is trending well ahead of last year, she says, so be sure to make your plans for the biggest health IT conference of the year.