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Remember, HIMSS is a marathon, not a sprint

At the risk of sounding too cliché, I’m going to say that HIMSS is a marathon, not a sprint. (Actually, I said it twice, if you count the headline.) And I’m exhausted already.

Planning for the annual madness, which starts this weekend here in Chicago, is almost as grueling as the conference itself, and I got a late start because I didn’t know until a couple weeks ago who I would be covering the event for. In case you were still wondering, I’m now a full-time staffer for MedCity News, so you can read my work there. In less than a week on the job, I’m already feeling a better vibe than I ever did with the last attempt at full-time work.

I have a feeling others are as exhausted as I am, or at least can empathize with all the scheduling that has to go into HIMSS  for a journalist. I need to find stories, but I also need to leave myself time to, you know, actually write the stories. We shall see if I succeed, because I feel overscheduled already.

How do I know it’s a common feeling? This semi-exasperated tweet I sent out a few days ago has gotten favorited a dozen times, which is just about a record for me.

 

The “1,400 of you, one of me” line has kind of become a mantra for me when dealing with people who are begging for a bit of my time. I did not violate my Rule #2 of HIMSS, which is never schedule back-to-back meetings in different locations. (Rule No. 1, of course, is wear comfortable shoes.)

I just hope I can get all my work done, and that I can get a solid six hours of sleep a night next week, even though it’s a home game for me this year. I’m not terribly far from McCormick Place, but it’s a pain to get to from where I am on the North Side. It’s either an hour-plus on public transit, with one transfer, or $21 per day to park. I’d ride my bike down there, but you probably don’t want to see me in spandex. I still may do that on Saturday before most of you are in town. Be warned.

I probably won’t be blogging on this site during HIMSS, though I may have some multimedia to post at some point. If you want to read my coverage, head over to MedCity News. My HIMSS preview should be up by the time you get to town this weekend. And if you haven’t done so already, click on the above tweet and follow me on Twitter.

Welcome to Chicago.

 

April 9, 2015 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

I’m joining MedCity News

Three months after my ill-fated decision to take a job with Clinical Innovation + Technology (I never did get an explanation or even a returned call from that cowardly boss, but it probably was about money), I am taking another plunge. Starting next week, I will be a staff writer, covering health IT for MedCity News, just in time for the HIMSS conference the following week.

How do I know it will be different and that I won’t be cut loose after less than three weeks? MedCity has new ownership as of January, namely New York-based Breaking Media. (The press release is still up at the top of the home page.) Breaking Media, which operates online publications in a half-dozen industries other than healthcare, seems committed to growing MedCity, and won’t run out of money, as CI+T’s publisher apparently is; three other reporters were let go a few days before I was cut loose.

You may have noticed that I’ve been contributing commentary to MedCity once a week for the last month or so. That has been on a freelance basis, as is the piece that should appear over the weekend. I’m still winding down some other freelance work, so I won’t be able to dive right in and write a lot for MedCity starting Monday, but I should be cranking out a lot of stories by the time HIMSS rolls around.

And now I know what I’ll be doing during HIMSS, it’s time to get back to all the publicists I’ve shooed away for a month and piece my schedule together. I’ll have to have time to cover some of the pre-conference, keynote and educational sessions and then write about three stories a day, so I won’t be scheduling a whole lot of vendor meetings, but I’ll see what I can do. As I’ve said for a long time, I can either meet with a lot of companies at HIMSS or I could get my actual work done.

I’m excited about this new chapter and I’m ready for the challenge of covering my 14th consecutive HIMSS conference. Best of all, I can sleep in my own bed this time.

April 3, 2015 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Digital health at the Mid-America Healthcare Venture Forum

In case you haven’t seen the official announcements or caught my tweets, later this month I will be moderating a panel at the Mid-America Healthcare Venture Forum, an event being put on by MedCity News, April 22-23 at the J.W. Marriott hotel in Chicago.

The panel is called “Opportunities (and Challenges) in Digital Health. Per the official description: “Digital health — and its business models — are coming of age. Promising young companies are integrating into healthcare and, in some cases, beginning to find exit partners. But that’s also meant new scrutiny from everyone from investors to the FDA. Learn about the challenges, opportunities and promising new markets in digital health.”

Panelists include: Amy Len, director of Chicago-based accelerator Healthbox; Julie Kling, director of mobile health at Verizon Wireless; and Jack Young, who heads the Qualcomm Life Fund for Qualcomm Ventures. I’ll just be there to keep order, and, of course, to cast my usual, skeptical eye on the field and continue to wonder why investors are throwing so much money at me-too fitness trackers and countless direct-to-consumer products that don’t stand a chance in an industry where nearly everything is paid for by third parties. Or at least that’s my thought at the moment, until we have our conference call next week. :)

The session is scheduled for Wednesday, April 23, at 8:55 a.m. CDT. The hotel is located at 151 W. Adams St. in the heart of the Financial District. Years ago, I worked about two blocks west of there, so I know it’s about 40-45 minutes away from me by public transit, and I’m not a morning person. This could get  interesting. (If any MedCity people are reading this, I’m kidding. I’ll be there on time. Hopefully.)

Our session follows a keynote from James Rogers, chairman of Mayo Clinic Ventures. After the panel is a break, then breakout sessions featuring presentations to investors from startups in digital health, medical devices and pharma/biotech. I hope I don’t prematurely burst anyone’s bubble with too much of a reality check. But, in honor of this week being the 25th anniversary of the release of the great Gen X satire, “Heathers,” I offer this quote from the movie: “Heather told me she teaches people ‘real life.’ She said, real life sucks losers dry.”

Wait, was that too cynical?Let me just say that the panel just got another thing to talk about today, as the FDA, FCC and ONC just released their proposed health IT regulatory strategy, as called for by the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA). To nobody’s surprise, they recommend a “risk-based framework” to regulation of health IT and digital health. Now to figure out if there are any details people should be concerned about…

In the meantime, you can register for the conference here.

April 3, 2014 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

My HIMSS agenda

After a couple of weeks of uncertainty, I now know I will be covering HIMSS for MedCity News. A lot of vendors and PR firms have of course pitched me for meetings, and the reality is, I’ve not always found vendor meetings all that interesting. In fact, the absolute worst thing about the annual HIMSS conference—and I’ve covered every one since 2002—is the few weeks beforehand, when I’m trying to juggle my schedule.

I have occasionally double-booked or simply forgotten to enter appointments into my calendar, but these things do happen when you are juggling dozens if not hundreds of e-mails, you don’t have a secretary and, oh, by the way, have regular work to do a the same time. Sometimes I’ve scrambled to change appointments up to the moment I get on the plane. It’s just a mess most of the time because of the sheer volume of requests and the need to fit it into my normal routine. (Interestingly, and scarily, it’s similar to how healthcare often operates, and mistakes made in healthcare can be deadly.)

The bottom line is, there are more than 1,200 vendors at HIMSS these days, and there is one of me. I can maybe meet with 10-12 of them over the five days of HIMSS, counting Sunday and Thursday, and most of the vendors have gone home by Wednesday evening. One thing a I’ve found is that lot of vendors don’t understand that there are also more than 300 educational sessions to choose from; HIMSS doesn’t just happen in the zoo known as the exhibit hall. I tend to find a lot of great stories from those sessions, so I make them a priority.

Anyway, I have about 10 stories to do for MedCity News during and immediately after HIMSS, and some have fairly specific requirements. (I also have to find time to, you know, write the stories. Sometimes, it’s a trade-off between covering a session/meeting with a vendor and doing my work. Doing the work necessarily wins. Two years ago in Las Vegas, I had to cancel two or three vendor meetings after CMS and ONC dropped the proposed Meaningful Use Stage 2 rules during a town hall-style session. If you recall, the thousands of people trying to download the proposal all but crashed the public Wi-Fi network at the Venetian.)

Two stories are about companies I discover at the new Startup Showcase. If you’re among the startups on display there, let me know. I’ve got one story to do on the Intelligent Hospital Pavilion and another on the Interoperability Showcase. I’ll probably just spend an hour or so walking through and asking questions, but if you’re there and think you have a compelling angle for me, I’m listening.

That’s four stories right there. Three more are from coverage of specific sessions, so those are already booked. I’ve also got three opinion/analysis pieces to write in the week after the fact, and I’m pretty flexible on those. I’m just going to see what I discover and what jumps out at me. A theme usually emerges by the second day.

Away from the madness, I will be at the fifth annual New Media Meetup on Tuesday evening, Feb. 25, hosted by the one and only John Lynn, who also hosts this very blog as part of the Healthcare Scene network. It’s free, but there is limited space, so you do need to preregister.

I will see you in Orlando in a little more than a week.

 

February 14, 2014 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.