HIMSS13 in a word: Exhausting

One of the things I like about HIMSS is connecting with people and events that I only get to see once each year. It's like the friend's child you see infrequently; growth and change is so much more obvious. At the same time, the frenetic pace and the challenge to see everything is totally exhausting. And I missed all the good stuff, like Eric Topol's keynote, and most of Bill Clinton's speech.

A few key observations from the show: Nobody seems to know what patient engagement is, but there are plenty of folks out there hawking solutions. That annoys many, but I'm not surprised that in coming to a trade show, people engage in trade. Nor does is astonish that companies try to capitalize on current trends. In fact, the HIMSS focus on Patient Engagement seems to have raised it up to be a point of conversation, and this is good sign. Everyone was talking about it, and there were a number of engaged patients (and technologists) around to take it in. Current reality is that patient engagement is too new for many to understand, especially at the institutional level. All too often, the discussions about patient engagement at HIMSS were missing the very people that needed to be engaged.

Another of the big trends was analytics and business intelligence. It's always been there, but BI emerged from the background to take on at least a supporting role on stage, if not trying to usurp the lead role. Platform, platform, platform. Everyone has a platform, and wanted to showcase it. What I really want to see here is not the platforms for, but rather the exercise of business intelligence in healthcare.

On the interoperability side of the show (in fact, the Interoperability Showcase is a show within a show), the message seemed to be a bit different from prior years. ePatient Dave was in the house, and presented to a standing room audience in the showcase theater, and giving showcase tours. Everything felt a bit more real. On the ONC program side, there was a lot more focus, on just a few topics:  CCD Exchange, Exchange using Direct, Exchange using NwHIN, and Blue Button and Blue Button Plus were the key messages, with multiple participants showing each. Regina Holliday was just next-door for a day, painting and participating all day in discussions about patient engagement. The conversations are starting, and this is good.