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HIMSS12 notes

I’ve just returned home from HIMSS12. As usual, it was a grueling week, made more grueling by the fact that I arrived a day earlier than usual. But I do have to say that this was the least stressful HIMSS I have been to in years.

Maybe it’s because the conference layout within the massive Venetian-Palazzo-Sands Expo complex was surprisingly compact for my purposes, and I didn’t have to do as much walking as normal. Maybe it was because I only set foot on the show floor once, thanks, in part, to the announcement of the Stage 2 “meaningful use” proposed rules on Wednesday, which caused me to cancel one vendor meeting (in the exhibit hall) and cut another one (in the media interview room) short so I could knock out my story for InformationWeek. Or maybe it’s because I spent too much time in the casinos. Let’s go with the first two, OK?

HIMSS12 broke all kinds of records, drawing 37,032 attendees, beating last year’s former record of 31,500 by nearly 18 percent. The final exhibitor count was 1,123, also the most ever. After I tweeted the attendance figure, at least one person thought this rapid growth was an indication that the conference was “jumping the shark”:

[blackbirdpie url=”!/apearson/status/173174398101110785″]

I have thought in recent years than HIMSS may be becoming too big for its own good. This time around, I heard mixed reviews.

Personally, like I said, it was less stressful than normal. It’s always good to catch up with old friends, particularly my media colleagues. This year, I also met up with a couple of friends from back home who happen to work for vendors. We kept the fun going all the way back to Chicago, since at least three other health IT reporters and a few others I know were on the same flight as me.

I also have to say I had a wonderful time on a “Meet the Bloggers” panel on Wednesday afternoon, where I joined Healthcare Scene capo John Lynn, fellow Healthcare Scene contributor Jennifer Dennard, Carissa Caramanis O’Brien of Aetna and moderator Brian Ahier for some lively dialogue about social media in health IT. I know that at least one audience member took some video, and I’ll link to that once it’s posted.

Later that evening, I saw nearly every one of the same people at Dell’s Healthcare Think Tank dinner, where I participated in a roundtable discussion about health IT with a bunch of supposed experts. It was streamed live, and I believe the video will be archived. Many of the participants, including myself, tweeted about it, using the hashtag #DoMoreHIT. I really am adamant about the public needing to be explained the difference between health insurance and healthcare.

Speaking about misunderstandings, I am in 100 percent agreement with something Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a.k.a. Seattle Mama Doc, said during an engaging presentation Monday at the HIMSS/CHIME CIO Forum. She made the astute observation that there needs to be better distinction between expertise and merely experience when it comes to celebrities being held up as “experts” in healthcare and medicine. Let’s just say that Swanson, as a pediatrician, is no fan of some of the things Jenny McCarthy and Dr. Mehmet Oz have told wide audiences.

There definitely were some people among the 37,000 who were not enamored with the cheerleading at HIMSS. There was talk around the press room that HHS really dropped the ball by not having the meaningful use Stage 2 proposal out a week earlier, before the conference started. In reality, blame the delay on the White House. Every federal rule-making has to be vetted by the bean counters and political operatives in the Office of Management and Budget, and it’s hard to tell how long the OMB review will take once an administrative agency, in this case, HHS, sends the text over.

I admit, I was wrong in expecting the plan to be out earlier, too. Instead, we got the news Wednesday morning and saw the text Thursday morning, forcing thousands of people to scramble to scour the proposed rules.

I know HIMSS had a team at the ready, who dropped everything to read the proposal and get a preliminary analysis out by the end of the day Thursday. Lots of consulting firms did the same. I’ll save some of the commentary I received for another post.

The wireless Internet in the Venetian’s meeting areas was truly terrible. Either that, or I need to replace my aging laptop. I’m thinking both.

I had no trouble getting my e-mail over the Wi-Fi network, but I really couldn’t do anything on the Web unless I was hard-wired to one of the limited number of Ethernet cords in the press room, and those workstations filled up fast. Bandwidth was particularly poor on Thursday, when I presume thousands of people were downloading the Stage 2 PDF. CMS officials said the Federal Register site crashed from the heavy demand, and I’m sure a lot of it came from inside the Venetian and the Sands Expo.

There didn’t seem to be enough attention paid to safety of EHRs, at least according to Dr. Scot Silverstein of the Health Care Renewal blog, who wrote this scathing critique of the sideshow the exhibit hall has become, making Las Vegas perhaps “fitting for people who gamble with people’s lives to make a buck.”

Personally, I thought ONC and CMS took the recent Institute of Medicine report on EHR-related adverse events pretty seriously. Plus, one of the IOM report authors, Dr. David Classen, presented about the study findings at the physician symposium on Monday and again during the main conference.

Mobile may also have gotten a bit of a short shrift, despite the recent launch of mHIMSS and last’s week’s news that HIMSS had taken over the mHealth Summit from the NIH Foundation. The mobile pavilion was relegated to the lower level of the Sands, the area with low ceilings and support pillars every 30 feet or so. (I called that hall “the dungeon.”) I have a feeling you will like Brian Dolan’s commentary in MobiHealthNews next week. I’m still figuring out what I will write for that publication, but I have to say I did hear some positive things about mobile health this week.

I still don’t know what GE and Microsoft are doing with Caradigm, their joint venture in healthcare connectivity and health information exchange that didn’t have a name until a couple of weeks ago. The name and the introductory reception they held Tuesday evening at HIMSS seemed a bit rushed, IMHO. The Web address the venture reserved,, currently redirects to a GE page. Other than the fact that Microsoft is shifting its Amalga assets to Caradigm, I’m at a loss.

Popular topics this year were the expected meaningful use and ICD-10, plus the buzzwords of the moment, business analytics and big data. I’d be happy I never hear the word “solution” as a synonym for “product” or “service” again. To me, that represents lazy marketing. Get yourself a thesaurus.


February 24, 2012 I Written By

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

So, now, doctors guessing with Google has become a joke

As I heard at AHIMA’s Legal EHR Summit earlier this week, clinical decision support isn’t a perfect science. (Check InformationWeek Healthcare for coverage on Thursday or Friday.) This is especially true when doctors rely too much on Google and don’t actually verify what they find on the Internet. This may sound hard to believe, but not everything posted online is true.

Now, the notion that doctors guess with Google has made its way onto the funny pages, specifically in the cartoon Sherman’s Lagoon. To wit:



Hopefully, your own doctor is more qualified than Hawthorne.

August 17, 2011 I Written By

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


What would my blog be without a random item from weeks ago? On Tuesday I discovered a news story from Dec. 31 about an e-health strategy in Rwanda. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reportedly is helping to fund the installation of Internet links between the three major hospitals in the Central African country, known in these parts mostly for its brutal, 1990s civil war.

According to the story, lack of high-speed Internet is holding back a national e-health strategy, “meant to help Rwandan medical experts exchange health information with their overseas counterparts.” Those overseas counterparts included “two U.S. universities of George Washington and New Jersey.” So George Washington University in Washington, and, I presume, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey? (Anyone know for sure? I’m too tired to hunt down that information.)

So, basically, U.S. taxpayers are financing international interoperability testing in a country with limited health infrastructure of any kind, but we can’t find more than $100 million or so (counting various HHS offices) in a $3 trillion federal budget for health IT at home? Interesting.

Yes, President Bush did discuss electronic health records in his State of the Union again this year, and yes, Sen. Hillary Clinton did give a pretty lengthy argument in favor of EHRs during last week’s Democratic presidential debate in Los Angeles, but are we really getting more than empty election-year posturing? Prove me wrong, politicians, prove me wrong.

And while we’re pondering interoperability conundrums, here’s a good one from Tim Dotson, my editor at Inside Healthcare Computing. In the Feb. 4 issue of that newsletter, he asks: “Why can’t somebody figure out a way for hospitals to share clinical decision support rules that will work on any vendor’s system instead of letting those systems go to waste because hospitals never develop their own rules?”

Good question. I suppose that’s why Cerner sold off Zynx Health a couple of years ago, but the issue is a lot deeper than one set of rules being tied to one vendor. Collaboration sure is hard, isn’t it?

P.S. Is anyone arriving at HIMSS early? I may come in as early as the Friday, Feb. 22, just because I hate 6 a.m. flights. Drop me a line if you’ll be in Orlando before Sunday.

February 5, 2008 I Written By

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

Are the mainstream media starting to get it?

A few weeks ago, I wrote kind of a throwaway post about whether if it’s proven to be true that the death of hip-hop star Kanye West’s mother, English professor Donda West, was due to a medical error, if the general public would start paying more attention to the issue of patient safety. The post received two comments, one saying it was an interesting question and another suggesting that the real wake-up call for the public should have been the death of sportswriter Dick Schaap in 2002.

Then I read an entry on Jane Sarasohn-Kahn’s Health Populi blog, dated a week after my post, that mentioned not only West’s death, but a dosing error that affected two children of actor Dennis Quaid, and said the news “focuses this health care paparazzi’s lens squarely on the role of information technology in health care.” (Jane, you’re a great writer, but n.b., a single member of the group collectively known as “paparazzi” is a “paparazzo.” I’m not sure if there are separate masculine/feminine versions. Anyone care to assist my half-hearted attempt at being pedantic?)

In the West case, Sarasohn-Kahn links to piece by syndicated columnist Susan Estrich calling for greater transparency in health information, particularly when it comes to doctor quality. So apparently someone was paying attention.

Meanwhile, right there above the nameplate at the top of the front page of Sunday’s Chicago Tribune was a teaser that asked “Is your doctor Internet savvy?” As it turns out—surprise—many are not. The story, by health and fitness reporter/columnist Julie Deardorff, whom I do not know, does a good job spelling out the issues. “Unlike the banking, restaurant and travel industries, the medical profession has been slow to embrace the Internet’s potential customer service benefits,” the story says.

Deardorff also quotes some people I’ve used as sources before, including Dr. Ed Fotsch of Medem and Forrester Research analyst Elizabeth Boehm.

The more stories like this that get teased on the front page of a major big-city newspaper’s Sunday edition, the more the general public figures out that the solution to the nation’s healthcare crisis is a lot more complicated than just throwing more money at the existing system, mandating insurance coverage or making Wall Street happy by passing along insurance costs to employers.

December 3, 2007 I Written By

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