New leader ready to prepare HIMSS for the approaching silver tsunami

Hal Wolf believes an aging population will require a new approach from healthcare IT leaders.
By Gus Venditto
03:13 PM

When Hal Wolf looks at the future of HIMSS, he sees “tremendous opportunities” but he is also keenly focused on the “silver tsunami” that is coming.

“We must recognize that healthcare systems are going to be financially strapped,” he said in his first interview with Healthcare IT News. “We have a lot of people living longer and there are going to be fewer people producing GDP.”

Wolf, who takes over as President and CEO of HIMSS today, succeeds Steve Lieber, who is stepping down after more than 17 years.

He’s already given serious thought to how HIMSS needs to change in order to help its membership meet these challenges, some of it based on his experience in healthcare IT leadership roles. He was director of information and digital health strategy at The Chartis Group;  chief operating officer of Kaiser Permanente's Federation;  and regional CIO at Kaiser Permanente IT in Denver.  

 “We have an amazing membership,” he said. “And HIMSS has an astounding opportunity to continue to expand its relevancy and its value in healthcare.”

But the crunch that an aging population will present across healthcare is a challenge he believes will require new approaches.

“I am a huge believer in patient at home,” Wolf said. “People will need information not just in the home but globally as well.”

Connecting medical devices, supporting reimbursement systems, and delivering medical records where they’re needed are all at the center of the transformation to home-based care.

He also believes the membership will have increasing needs to learn about predictive modeling using  genomic data. And he sees a need to improve automation of the supply chain.

“When we look at how goods are purchased in this space, the process has not been digitized within the provider community,” he said adding that the change can provide tremendous value to the quality of care and help control cost.

Wolf believes HIMSS must continue to provide educational value and networking opportunities to its members.

“The strength of HIMSS membership has always been to facilitate getting members together to share information and best practices,” he said. He places high value on the connections made at events that lead to relationships forming after the event is over. “The educational piece is critical. That’s what drives our eco-system and that’s why so many of our members are active.”

He is also firmly behind HIMSS involvement in public policy.

“This is extremely important. I cannot stress this is enough,” he said. “We are a trusted source in the United States for public policy.” He is already involved in work to educate the FDA on certification of digital devices and is focused on emerging technologies like blockchain.

“We have a very important role to play because as a non-profit we have a neutral and judicious view on care and the enablement of technology that is a cornerstone public policy,” he said, adding that he hopes to extend the work internationally, collaborating with HIMSS members who already involved.

He served as an advisor to WHO (World Health Organization) and has been involved in discussions with the ministers of health in a number of European countries. Most are facing the same challenge of an aging population and a declining economic base.

One of the traits Wolf shares with outgoing HIMSS President and CEO Steve Lieber: face-to-face meetings have been an important factor in his success. And he intends to continue a heavy travel schedule.

He is not planning to change his permanent address from Colorado to Chicago, where HIMSS’ headquarters is located. But his lifestyle will remain the same. He said he’ll “continue to be living out of United Airlines seat 6B.”

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