The HIMSS 2015 conference, noted as the largest health IT event in the industry, was held in Chicago on April 12-16. This year, I had the good fortune to both attend the conference and work in our healthcare booth. This was my fourth HIMSS, and, as usual, it was filled with good conversations, informative sessions and lots of fun in booth #1231.  

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At a conference with over 40,000 attendees, 1200-plus exhibitors and countless educational sessions, there is a lot to take in. I asked many HIMSS newbies that visited the booth about their impression of the conference. Practically to the person, the response was “overwhelming!” Given the scale of the conference and my lack of omniscience and omnipresence, I’ll share just a small set of highlights around common discussion themes, our booth and impressions from some of the sessions and keynotes I attended.

Probably the most enjoyable part of the conference was the opportunity to speak with attendees about some of the challenges and initiatives they had underway in their organizations, and areas they were investigating solutions for at HIMSS. I spoke with several individuals about healthcare analytics and population health initiatives.

One larger provider was tackling analytics on a large scale – investing a high-performance data warehouse solution and getting a head start organizing data by leveraging a 3rd-party healthcare data model. While I can’t share all the specific details, watch the webinar below to learn how one provider is leveraging similar technologies in their organization and the results they achieved.

I also spoke with a much smaller provider. Their organization, like many others, is struggling with data stored in multiple silos and looking for a way to start with basic reporting. Here we discussed a number of the business intelligence solutions that can address this need. One last analytics theme was around population health initiatives. Here I shared how we are assisting customers in developing predictive analytics solutions to address challenges with readmissions.

Patient engagement was another interesting theme in some of the discussions I had. One provider lamented that having a portal in and of itself does not mean you are engaging with patients. I couldn’t agree more, and shared my own experience of logging into a new care provider’s portal to find nothing more than a phone number I could use to call their office. Another provider I spoke with was looking for solutions to create their own mobile apps to better engage with patients.

These were just some of the many discussions occurring in the booth. My colleagues from our security, mobility, unified communications, storage and other specialties were all active with attendees, talking around the themes of the empowered patient, secure patient, mobile patient and connected patient. In addition, there was plenty of fun to be had. Games were running throughout the day, and tours of the CDW Technoliner were ongoing.

On my last shift in the booth, I shared details about the Technoliner with guests as they walked through. As they first entered the bus, they were greeted by a person on the other end of a teleconferencing system. It caught many people by surprise to have the person on the other end start talking to them when they thought it was just a display, and it was a great demonstration of a potential telehealth solution.

Breakout Sessions and Keynotes

Although my time for educational sessions was limited, the quality of the sessions I attended was fantastic. Dr. Kori Krueger and Kate Konitzer, from Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin, shared their experience in Applying Analytics to Population Health Management. They provided an excellent model on the lifecycle of population health management, and a concrete example of that model in action to address blood pressure control.

At another session, it was standing room only to hear more about Better Care with Big Data. Dr. John Mattison, from Kaiser Permanente, was one of several panelists who shared insights on the role of Hadoop in healthcare analytics. He commented on how Hadoop is a complementary solution to traditional data warehouses and not a replacement. Dr. Christopher Kodama shared the impressive results that MultiCare Health System was able to achieve with Business Intelligence for Sepsis & Heart Failure Readmissions. Their multiyear timeline illustrates that effectively implementing healthcare analytics can require significant organizational effort and change.

Lastly, I was able to catch two of the keynote sessions. The first was by former President George Bush. As attendees were instructed to neither take picture nor take notes, I’m not sure if secret service agents will be stopping by my door for sharing this information. His keynote was quite enjoyable, and the former President made many self-effacing remarks. On a more serious note, while talking about his support of Aids Relief in Africa while he was President, he again stressed the point that “All lives matter.” It was interesting to be reminded that he was the President that first called for the digitization of healthcare records nationally, and that the impetus for that did not arise from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also known as ObamaCare. The second keynote I attended was presented by the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Dr. Karen DeSalvo and Acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt. Progress towards interoperability was highlighted with the recent release of ONC’s roadmap to interoperability. Slavitt shared an interesting perspective of someone that had moved from successfully running businesses in the private sector and transitioning into public service. It was a compelling session, and both emphasized that efforts had moved out of the visioning phase and were clearly focused on execution.

All-in-all it was an excellent conference, and I hope to see you again next year in Las Vegas for HIMSS 2016!

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