HIMSS and ViVE 2024: Looking for healthcare IT’s next frontier 

These two key industry events will be on center stage for thousands of attendees, who will want to be able to decipher real impacts from hype.

This article is a preview of ViVE ReCap and HIMSS Lookahead, our March 2024 COVERstory. If you have thoughts about your experience at ViVE or what you expect to see and learn at HIMSS 2024, please submit your articles via our contributor portal.

It’s that time of year for two of the industry’s biggest events, the annual HIMSS Global Conference & Exhibition, and ViVE 2024. For me, it’s time to field emails to schedule face-to-face meetings, plan which educational sessions I’ll attend and make travel plans. 

I’ve attended almost all HIMSS conferences since 1996 in Atlanta, missing just a handful due to unusual circumstances. Most have been as a writer and editor, although I was on staff at CHIME for several years and in 2003, I was on staff at HIMSS as director of communications. 

But most years, I come as a wide-eyed attendee looking to learn new things and measure the progress that’s been made over the previous year. I come to learn, ask questions and have my presupposed knowledge challenged. I try to drop all the pretensions of being knowledgeable; about all I’ve managed over the last 30 years is being able to ask slightly less dumb questions. I’m excited about the progress the industry has made, and ready to see where it has the potential to head. 

That’s what I’m looking for in 2024. There’s been a positive growth path for these events to show that technology can address specific, real problems that have stood in the way of industry evolution. 

But oh, those pet peeves 

Of course, it’s not always that way. Oh lordy, there are times when conferences such as HIMSS can be a death march of too many meetings, too much hype, too many promises and fanciful nirvanas that can’t be achieved. 

For example, long-time HDM Editor Howard Anderson told me about one vendor meeting he attended as healthcare IT was discovering the Internet. Rather than being introduced to the capabilities of a real product, the discussion was about a “pre-alpha, proof-of-concept prototype.” That wasn’t even a Powerpoint on a screen – it was a fever dream. 

One of my worst nightmares at a HIMSS conference was being ambushed at a vendor meeting at which eight executives of a startup spinoff of a major HIT vendor, early in the Internet era, trotted into a meeting room to sit around a table for an intro session. Completely overwhelmed by the star power, I went with one of my go-to questions – what’s the goal of the new entity and what do they hope to provide? It was telling that none of the eight could succinctly provide a definition, elevator pitch or understandable explanation of the company’s raison d'être. Perhaps it’s no wonder that this spinoff didn’t succeed. 

For all the fancy verbiage and technology surrounding HIT solutions, it’s still one of the harbingers of success for a technology provider to have a clear vision of a specific, vexatious problem it’s trying to solve, using a understandable application of technology that will provide a tangible result – better care, less expensive and more facile processes, life enhancement for users or systemic savings – via an explanation that an eighth grader can understand (which is my other go-to question when I’m completely confused). 

Increasingly, HIMSS and ViVE have become events where technology solutions are couched in understandable descriptions and practical applications, and this is what enthuses me about going to these (and other) conferences, which become learning experiences meant to expose new insights. 

Not that the technical problems underlying these simple solutions are easy. That’s the magic of where the industry is in HIT – the complex building blocks are in place, and the technical expertise exists to solve these challenges. 

For example, at one of the most recent HIMSS conferences, one exciting solution was the emerging ability of the MEDITECH Expanse system to incorporate complex and extensive genomic information about patients that could be acted upon by clinicians. Another was work on a standards project demonstrated by Draeger, Ascom and Verona, Wis.-based Epic that holds the promise of enabling the distribution of critical medical device alarms to caregivers and automating the documentation of device readings in patients’ EHRs. 

Such initiatives – increasingly involving cross-vendor and cross-industry collaboration – are drawing wide industry attention at HIMSS and VIVE. And these initiatives are crucial in addressing inefficiencies or to address industry trends such as clinician burnout, optimization of patient treatment and outcomes, or patient safety. 

No shortage of hype – unfortunately 

But in their pasts, both HIMSS and ViVE events are fertile incubators for hype that soars to meteoric heights. For example, past HIMSS conferences have sung the praises of PDA-based prescription ordering systems, the Internet, electronic health records and more.  

Sure to be on this year’s menu is artificial intelligence. Already highly promoted last year, incorporation of AI this year should be through the roof. Expect all communication on the exhibit floors to be a noun, a verb and artificial intelligence. 

Hype can be counterproductive, especially as it gets overblown, to the peak of inflated expectations and then descending into the trough of disillusionment when all the lofty promises are not delivered (perfectly explained in the Gartner Hype Cycle). Despite past negative perceptions and fears about AI, the technology is ripe to address real issues, such as reducing clinician burden, facilitating documentation, assuming some of the burden of manual documentation and coding, and more. 

Both events look to be moving beyond the hype to actual potential for using AI to make a difference in healthcare. Promotional material for HIMSS24 is promising to “equip you with the necessary foundational AI knowledge, savvy strategies you can apply immediately, and connections to AI champions with experience and insight to share.” Both events will provide concrete value if they can demonstrate how AI is moving along a path from theoretical to practical use. 

Although AI will be receiving much of the attention, other capabilities that should draw attention at the annual conferences are likely to include: 

  • • Home health, hospital at home and remote patient monitoring.
  • • Interoperability applications, particularly wider use of standards that can enable critical data exchange among diverse industry partners, to the inclusion of information that can support value-based care and social determinants of health information.
  • • Telehealth and other technologies supporting remote care, which can increase patient access.
  • • Technologies that can concretely reduce clinician burden and counteract burnout risk.

Key questions, more appropriate than ever 

At past conferences, the news organizations of which I’ve been a part often have focused on key questions that help assess the reality of the solutions we were seeing. With kudos to those who helped develop these criteria, here they are. 

  • • Where is this solution in the development cycle? Can I buy it today? Can you demonstrate it or is it just a PowerPoint representation?
  • • What is its purpose? How does it achieve the purpose?
  • • What is the most simplistic explanation you can give for how it works and what it does? How would you explain it to your eighth-grade son or daughter?
  • • Has this solution been installed or tested at a real provider organization? Can you point me toward one or two real customers that I can contact?
  • • What similar products are in the marketplace? Who are your competitors? What makes you different?

There are more questions we come armed with, but these provide real-world grounding to measure against hype and marketing speak. As I come to learn at both HIMSS and ViVE this year, these will be on my short list of questions. I expect they will be valuable to other attendees who seek to separate the hype from the reality, looking for technology to answer the huge challenges they face. 

Now more than ever, it’s time for health information technology to show the promise – and hopefully, the reality – of what it can do to facilitate healthcare.

This article is a preview of ViVE ReCap and HIMSS Lookahead, our March 2024 COVERstory. If you have thoughts about your experience at ViVE or what you expect to see and learn at HIMSS 2024, please submit your articles via our contributor portal.

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