HIMSS: Where Buzzwords, Showmanship, and Real Connections Collide

1upHealth’s Senior Director of Advisory Services Shares Perspective on HIMSS24

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) conference in Orlando. For those unfamiliar, HIMSS is the granddaddy of healthcare conferences – a colossal gathering of industry professionals, vendors, and enthusiasts. Picture a bustling beehive of buzzwords, branded swag, and business cards, all set against the backdrop of palm trees and expensive hotel breakfasts where connections are forged over lukewarm coffee.

The Great HIMSS Circus: Showtime!

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen! Behold the dazzling booths, the massive signs, the branded pens, and the tote bags – all meticulously designed to lure you in. It’s like a carnival, minus the cotton candy. Oh wait, who am I kidding, of course there are the token booths with cotton candy and popcorn. Look hard enough at the right time and there is even free beer, wine, and liquor flowing.

Showmanship is the name of the game. Vendors vie for attention, each booth more extravagant than the last. But here’s the kicker: most of these materials end up in landfills. It’s a paradox: we’re here to reduce waste in healthcare, yet we’re drowning in excess.

The AI Hype Train: Destination Unknown

“Generative AI,” “machine learning,” “deep neural networks” – these phrases reverberated through the conference like a broken record. Everyone, it seemed, was eager to discuss the transformative power of artificial intelligence. But let’s be real: most of us are still fumbling in the dark, trying to decipher what these buzzwords even mean. It’s like being handed the latest video game platform without a controller; all potential, nothing actionable.

Generative AI, in particular, is the belle of the ball. It’s the mysterious stranger who sweeps you off your feet with promises of personalized medicine, predictive analytics, and seamless workflows. But scratch beneath the surface, and you’ll find a tangled mess of algorithms, biases, and unmet expectations. We’re drowning in snake oil, and it’s exhausting.

The truth? AI will change the world – eventually. But today, it’s mostly vaporware – a tantalizing glimpse of what’s possible. We need to demystify it, to educate ourselves, and to acknowledge the cataclysmic risks. Otherwise, we’re just shouting into the void, hoping someone hears us over the noise, as the ground shakes and we stumble near the edge of the chasm.

FHIR®: From Skepticism to Celebration

A decade ago, FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) was a whisper. Skeptics raised eyebrows – another standard? Another failed attempt at interoperability? But oh, how the tides have turned. Now, FHIR is the cool kid at the party. No need to convince anyone; they’re already believers. The questions from others are no longer “why” but rather “why not” and because of that I am elated.

FHIR enables data exchange like never before. It’s the bridge between disparate systems, the Rosetta Stone of healthcare. And the excitement is palpable. We’re not just talking about it; we’re building with it. Today, FHIR is our compass, pointing toward a future where data flows seamlessly across boundaries.

Tomorrow, as the industry embraces FHIR, we’ll see the fruits of this shift. Better care, streamlined processes, and maybe – just maybe – reduced costs. It’s a slow, winding path, but it’s progress. And knowing where we started, knowing all the inertia and resistance that was overcome as FHIR journeyed along the hype cycle, it’s fulfilling to see how far we’ve come knowing full well the potential in front of us.

The Hidden Gems: Real Connections

Amidst the chaos, there’s a silver lining – the people. As a remote worker, any chance to meet colleagues face-to-face is a treasure. HIMSS becomes less about the sessions and more about those impromptu conversations in the hallway. The shared laughter, the war stories, the camaraderie – it’s like a reunion with old friends.

Person-to-person interactions are the heart of the conference. Geography ceases to be a barrier. Titles fade. We’re no longer avatars on a screen; we’re flesh and blood, laughing, debating, and forging bonds. In those moments, HIMSS transcends the superficial glitz and glamor into something tangible, real, and fulfilling.

These connections fuel us and remind us why we do what we do. They inspire us to do more with less, to fight on despite the headwinds. We remember that we’re all in this together, that we’re doing this for a purpose bigger than ourselves, and that innovation and revolution are possible for those who believe and persevere.

Conclusion: The Slow Burn of Change

As I board my flight back home, I reflect on HIMSS. The buzzwords, the waste, the connections, the FHIR frenzy – it’s all part of this convoluted journey. Change isn’t a lightning bolt; it’s a slow burn. We inch forward, stumble, and sometimes fall. But we keep moving.

So here’s to the cynics, the dreamers, and the weary conference-goers. Change is possible. It’s not flashy or instant, but it’s there – in the quiet conversations, the shared frustrations, and the relentless pursuit of making the world a better place.

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