From elaborate cooperative demonstrations on the exhibit floor to preconference workshops that turn into yearlong virtual learning networks, this year’s HIMSS Conference promises to help its attendees collaborate to get the full value of the information technology that they’re adopting at an unprecedented rate.

The show will help participants find ways to prove the value of HIT and heal the wounded expectations that have plagued EHRs during their national roll-out over the past few years, says Carla Smith, executive vice president for HIMSS North America and the overseer of HIMSS 2014.  EHR proponents initially painted a rosier picture of their benefits than most providers could attain at the time.  “Promises have been broken and expectations have been missed,” Smith says. “When that happens, seeds of doubt are planted, and it becomes increasingly important to have accurate information. We now have a bolus of evidence because we’ve passed the tipping point of hospitals and clinical practices using health IT. We can be gathering data on the impact of that technology.”

Smith says that in addition to achieving and proving the value of HIT, this year’s high profile topics will be clinical and business intelligence, ICD-10, interoperability to achieve Stage 2 meaningful use, mobile technologies, and patient engagement.

Smith expects 1,200 exhibitors and more than 35,000 attendees at the meeting. Some key tweaks in the schedule—a full half-hour between sessions and increased overlap between exhibit and education hours—will give participants more time to network and more flexibility in planning their days.

A HIMSS mobile app will be available about a week before the show for attendees to upload their schedules. They can also use the app to access session handouts and participate in live polling, among other things.

Some program highlights:

Davies Day:  Tuesday, February 25th, will feature presentations by all recent winners in the HIMSS Davies Award program, for people and organizations recognized for HIT excellence. 

The Connected Patient Learning Gallery:  This exhibit-floor presentation will showcase innovative products and applications for patient engagement, encompassing the “quantified self,” the smart home, and tools for patients to communicate with providers and payers. Some will be offered by vendors who pay to participate, while others will come from volunteers who have developed applications in-house.

Hero’s Welcome: HIMSS will celebrate its joint initiative with Bellevue (Wash.) College, to equip military veterans for careers in health IT, welcoming beneficiaries of the program.

Nemours Children’s Hospital: HIMSS attendees will have the opportunity to tour the first children’s hospital in a quarter-century to be built new from the ground up. “I have toured the facility and it is remarkable,” Smith says.

Interoperability Showcase: This popular exhibit, usually the biggest draw in the hall, has been completely redesigned, and there’s a new simulation area where attendees can see how certified EHR systems fulfill the criteria for the federal Meaningful Use program.

Intelligent Hospital Pavilion: Another big draw on the show floor gives a practical overview of RFID, sensors, and wireless technologies that underlie smart hospitals and smart homes.

Virtual learning network: HIMSS will present preconference programming on Sunday, February 23rd, with daylong symposia and hands-on workshops targeted to specific groups. For the first time this year, two of those programs—one on project management and the other on interoperability—will continue past the show for an entire year, through webinars and a social media platform where participants can network. Smith anticipates that the new format will draw 100 to 200 participants. “We want them to form a cohort,” and derive ongoing benefits from staying in touch, she says.

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