Health data exchange, cloud computing among key HIMSS trends noticed by observers

HIMSS11 in Orlando, Fla., was notable as much for its timing as for its 31,000-plus participants--a new record--and the positive energy they radiated. The show occurred just as registration for the government "meaningful use" incentives was getting off the ground, and it arrived in the midst of a veritable explosion of health IT vendors drawn by the prospect of $27 billion in federal funds. That said, here are a few of the viewpoints that the HIMSS convention stimulated among industry observers.

Greg Gillespie, Health Data Management: "While there are a lot of sessions with 'Meaningful Use' or 'Stage 2' in the title, most sessions have been circling back by various paths to health information exchange because of the requirements for care continuum/coordination sure to be baked into Stage 2 meaningful use criteria."

Gillespie added, however, that meeting the Stage 2 criteria will be a lot more difficult than showing that you can exchange information across care settings. The real challenge will be to prove that you're using an EHR to improve care coordination. Health systems are starting to come to grips with the significant problems of medication reconciliation, he pointed out, and that's just the beginning.

Bonnie Siegel, Sanford Rose Associates, healthsystemCIO: "Health IT worker demand was a key topic [at HIMSS]. Competition remains fierce among providers, vendors and consultants for the same pool of talent. No need to hide the fact that healthcare CIOs want to hire qualified IT talent, and the sooner the better. Along with hiring, CIOs are changing and rearranging IT departments with re-organization, and adding new roles to meet the demands of EMR adoption."

Siegel cited a HIMSS survey showing that clinical IT/informaticists and implementation experts are at the top of the most wanted list. She also listed what different kinds of IT professionals are being paid--mostly in the six-figure range.

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee, InformationWeek: "The cloud is destined to play a much larger role in healthcare than it has so far. That will be especially true as more providers adopt e-health records and other digitized clinical systems. It will also be pushed along by storage-hungry systems like 3-D medical imaging and health information exchanges looking to provide more efficient ways to share data."

As McGee observed, the advantages of cloud computing include cost savings, added storage capacity, and the ability to roll out new applications without requiring more from resource-stretched IT staff.

John Moore, Chilmark Research: Moore was unimpressed by HIMSS, which he found lacking in true innovation. "Maybe I had my blinders on, maybe I was looking in the wrong places but honestly, outside of the expected, [such as the fact that] nearly every EHR vendor has an iPad App for the EHR, or will be releasing such this year, I just didn't see anything that really caught my attention."

Moore also was disappointed that he didn't hear more about accountable care organizations at HIMSS. Among the reasons for this, he said, is the fixation of providers on meaningful use and ICD-10, as well as their difficulties in finding enough qualified IT staff. He cites one CIO who said he had 53 open positions.