By Ken Congdon
Every year, the HIMSS (Health Information and Management Systems Society) Annual Conference and Exhibition delivers an extensive and powerful series of educational curriculum. This year is no exception. There are currently more than 200 live educational lectures and keynote presentations planned for the four main days of the conference (February 24-27). Most folks will only be able to attend a small fraction of these sessions while at the event. For instance, between the end user interviews, vendor appointments, and networking events, my schedule will allow me to take in only about a half dozen sessions and/or keynotes while at HIMSS14. This forces me to make some very tough decisions. The following are the six sessions/keynotes I’m making sure to carve out time for in my HIMSS14 schedule.
Monday, February 24, 10 AM-11 AM, Room 320
This town hall is billed as an interactive session that will allow HIMSS attendees to engage with ONC leadership about the national health IT agenda. Attendees will have the opportunity to get updates and ask questions about the ONC roadmap during this pivotal year of Stage 2 implementation. This session should produce some interesting dialogue and debate. I’m interested to hear what grievances are aired by both health providers and health IT vendors about current Stage 2 Meaningful Use (MU) requirements. I’m equally as interested to see how ONC leaders respond to any criticism. Standards development, HIE progress, patient engagement, the 2014 certification program, and Stage 3 Meaningful Use are sure to be topics of discussion. Jacob Reider, MD, Chief Medical Officer, and Doug Fridsma, MD, Chief Science Officer, at the ONC are currently billed as the main speakers, but I’m hopeful that the newly appointed national coordinator, Karen DeSalvo is also on hand to contribute to the discussion.
Tuesday, February 25, 2:30 PM-3:30 PM, Room 224A
This session will examine key policy and technical takeaways/lessons learned from an ONC Challenge Grant the state of Indiana received to make HIE data available to consumers. Given the importance of open data and patient engagement to national health IT initiatives, the findings of this pilot could be telling in determining the actual impact these capabilities can have on the healthcare system over time. Indiana’s experience in this area can also provide an indication of what will be required of other states to create similar technology infrastructures. Andrew Vanzee, CEO of Indiana Health Information Technology, Inc. (Indiana’s state-designated entity) is the featured presenter. This session should be eye-opening.
Wednesday, February 26, 8:30 AM-9:30 AM, Room 230D
Meaningful Use audits are the new boogeyman in health IT. One in 20 MU attesters will face an audit, of which 50% will undergo pre-payment audit. As such, health providers across the country are dedicating considerable financial and human resources to ensuring they are prepared to handle an MU audit and keep the incentive dollars they have already been awarded. In fact, according to a reader survey Health IT Outcomes conducted in December, more than 45% of health providers consider MU audit preparation either a “Top Priority” or “Priority” for 2014. That’s why this session is so appealing. In it, Joanne La Grange, Director of the MU Program at Scripps Health, will demonstrate how her health system has developed an MU audit "Book of Evidence" and conducts internal mock audits. Attendees are sure to gain insights that they can apply to their organizations.
Wednesday, February 26, 1 PM-2 PM, Room 205A
I usually try to avoid vendor-led educational sessions, particularly if there’s not an end user included as a featured speaker. More often than not, these sessions are biased or downright promotional. However, this session, led by athenahealth COO Ed Park, has convinced me to make an exception this year. The reason is two-fold: 1) I’ve often asserted that HHS should tap the minds at Amazon to identify ways to improve the U.S. healthcare system (imagine how much better HealthCare.gov would have been received if it functioned more like Amazon); and 2) Ed Park is more than just the COO of athenahealth. He’s also brother to U.S. CTO Todd Park, and a leading mind when it comes to applying Web 2.0 principles to healthcare. I’m expecting this session to be either exceptionally thought-provoking or a bitter disappointment. I’m taking a chance and hoping that Ed can avoid the urge to simply use this platform as a means to promote athenahealth.
Wednesday, February 26, 4:30 PM-5:30 PM, Valencia Ballroom
I’m sure this keynote is on just about every HIMSS attendee’s schedule. Who could miss the opportunity to hear what a potential 2016 presidential candidate and former First Lady, Secretary Of State, and U.S. Senator has to say about the role of IT in transforming the U.S. healthcare system? I expect her speech to be more on point and rousing than her husband’s was last year at HIMSS13.
Thursday, February 27, 8:30 AM-10 AM, Valencia Ballroom
When Karen DeSalvo was selected to fill the role of National Coordinator of HIT back in December, it was big news in health IT circles. HIMSS14 provides DeSalvo with her first big public stage since she accepted the position. I am eager to see what she does with it. I’m sure many other health IT enthusiasts share my curiosity. What messages will she deliver during her keynote? What changes will she bring to the table? What is her personal mission in reforming healthcare and how does it align with the ONCs? What kind of first impression will she leave with HIMSS attendees? We’ll have to wait and see.