HIMSS19: Keynote speaker lineup dominated by top Trump administration, former administration officials

Alex Azar
HHS Secretary Alex Azar is among several officials from the Trump administration who will address the HIMSS Conference in Orlando, Florida, next week. (Tina Reed/FierceHealthcare)

There was plenty of disappointment when Atul Gawande, famed physician, writer and now-CEO of the mysterious Amazon-JP Morgan-Berkshire Hathaway healthcare play canceled his keynote speech at this year's HIMSS Conference.

But there is still a small collection of heavy hitters who will still be speaking at HIMSS in Orlando, Florida, most notably a collection of various top officials from the Trump administration and officials from previous administrations. 

Here’s a rundown of the some of the keynote speakers at HIMSS19:

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Aneesh Chopra, Former U.S. CTO and Co-Founder of the CARIN Alliance, Karen DeSalvo, Former National Coordinator for Health IT and Consumer-Directed Exchange Advocate and Michael Leavitt, former Utah Governor and former HHS Secretary 

Keynote: Will Consumer-Directed Exchange Disrupt the Healthcare Marketplace?

Joined by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma and HIMSS CEO Hal Wolfe, the group of policy experts will discuss how consumer-directed exchanges and patient-friendly technology are putting care coordination planning in the hands of patients and their care teams. They plan to explore the policy impacts and market disruption possibilities that empowered consumers are having on healthcare delivery.

Tuesday, Feb. 12. 8:30-10 a.m. Valencia Ballroom.


Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma

Keynote: Special Views Session: Interoperability and Patient Engagement.

People will be closely watching this address from top Trump administration officials who have an interoperability and patient access rule still under review by the Office of the National Coordinator. Verma has noted that the government has spent nearly $36 billion on EHR adoption, but most patients still can’t access their medical records and the officials have previously thrown their support behind requiring data sharing as a Medicare requirement.

Azar and Verma said they plan to address a number of initiatives focused on facilitating interoperability and greater patient engagement. Expect updates on the administration’s Blue Button 2.0 program, aimed at putting Medicare claims data in API form, and the administration’s MyHealthEData initiative.

Tuesday, Feb. 12. 5:30-6:30 p.m. Orlando Ballroom.


Don Rucker, MD, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC)

Keynote: Embracing Innovation in Healthcare: A Conversation with the National Coordinator

Rucker is the national coordinator for health information technology, otherwise known as the Trump administration’s top health IT official. He previously worked as a clinical professor of emergency medicine and biomedical informatics at the Ohio State University and Premise Health, a worksite clinic provider. Rucker started his informatics career at Datamedic Corporation where he co-developed the world's first Microsoft Windows-based electronic medical record.  

In December, he told lawmakers his agency is acutely focused on ensuring that privacy and security remain pillars of future rulemaking as the healthcare industry transitions to an app-based economy. (The industry is still waiting on a proposed rule from ONC on information blocking.)  A big part of those rules will be the agency’s approach to open APIs, outlined in the Cures Act as a way to exchange and access health data through the used of apps “without special effort."

Friday, Feb. 15. 8:30-10:15 a.m. Valencia Ballroom.


Mick Ebeling, CEO, Not Impossible Labs

Keynote: Not Impossible: Pushing the Bar on Innovation

The two time SXSW Innovation Award winner and author of the book Not Impossible: The Art and Joy of Doing What Couldn't Be Done is the closing keynote speaker will discuss his humanitarian and innovative ideas to motivate attendees to solve healthcare's largest problems. Ebeling founded Not Impossible, a multiple award-winning social innovation lab and production company, following the mantra of  "commit, then figure it out."

According to HIMSS description, Not Impossible labs has brought together a disparate team of hackers, doers, makers and thinkers for projects such as the EyeWriter, Project Daniel, Don’s Voice and most recently Music Not Impossiblethat brought the ability to draw back to a paraplegic street artist, 3D-printed arms for Sudanese amputees and gave a "voice" to an ALS patient who hadn’t spoken in 15 years.

Friday, Feb. 15. 1:15-2:30 p.m. Valencia Ballroom.

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