HIMSS 2015: Interoperability Grows Up


Update from the 2015 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) meeting

Last week I had the chance to attend the 2015 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) meeting in Chicago, IL.

While most in imaging informatics are familiar with RSNA, that meeting is focused exclusively on radiology and imaging. HIMSS instead is more broadly focused all kinds of healthcare IT. Often billed as the conference designed for CIOs, HIMSS is a great chance to see the latest in innovation, technology and software. But it’s not for the faint of heart. With thousands of vendors there is much to absorb.

This year the topics that seem to dominate the HIMSS headlines and hallway conversations included: Interoperability, Analytics, Patient Engagement, Population Health, Meaningful Use Stage 3, ICD-10 and Retail Health. And while each of these areas could fuel its own dedicated blog post, the one that struck me the most was interoperability.

Make no mistake; interoperability has been a part of every virtually every annual HIMSS conference in some shape or form. But, as recently as a few years ago, the HIMSS Interoperability ShowcaseTM was often –literally – relegated to the basement. Tucked away and anywhere from a 15 minute to 30 minute walk from the main action, it was more a refuge for the hard core “techies” than a main attraction.

That’s changed. This year the Interoperability Showcase has clearly grown up. The area dedicated to this theme was bigger than ever and featured sophisticated use case-focused tours that allowed visitors to see a clinical continuum of care demonstrated through multiple clinically-accurate healthcare environments. Even more exciting, I saw more business leaders than tech “geeks” taking these tours and watching as vendors explained how they are sharing data between and among disparate systems, departments and regions.

This change in the Interoperability Showcase is very much representative of how important this topic has become. Today, CIOs are managing many applications in their environment! Clearly the need to share data among all of those systems – the true purpose of interoperability – has never been greater.

Imaging needs to be a part of the interoperability discussion. In fact, with imaging being increasingly used to help with diagnosis, I would argue that imaging leaders could, and should, be leading the discussions about interoperability in their health system.

Twenty plus years ago savvy radiologists were some of the first clinicians to embrace the use of IT in healthcare. Now as technology and imaging is ubiquitous across virtually every part of the care continuum, imaging leaders need to once again lead by example and shape the critical conversation about interoperability.

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