Hillary Rodham Clinton thanked the crowd at HIMSS14 for their “efforts to modernize America’s health care system to empower patients” in a keynote address Wednesday afternoon.

“We are seeing remarkable advances in medical technology. Your focus on health I.T. is such a big part of this story,” she said to a full ballroom and overflow room at the Orange County (Fla.) Convention Center. “We know [information technology] is helping to increase efficiency and improve quality of care and that your industry has been doing this for more than a half a century.

“It must feel gratifying for you to see the debate catch up,” she added. “For me, it is reassuring.”

The former Secretary of State, New York State Senator and First Lady told the crowd that “we can make progress together driven by innovation and creativity” during her 22-minute opening remarks that were followed by a sit-down with the HIMSS CEO and President H. Stephen Lieber.

She said she’s seen firsthand the impact electronic health records can have on a population during her visits to Houston to meet with evacuees following Hurricane Katrina. In a natural disaster or medical emergency, having electronic records, Clinton said, can “literally make the difference between life and death. The piece of mind that comes with that is priceless.”

None of that is possible, however, without the right attitude. “Tech specialists no longer focus solely on making patient data accessible to providers,” she said. “You are now playing a leading role in making sure medical teams have data and use that data to yield new efficiencies.”

She also stressed the value of good data and making decisions based on that data, not personally held beliefs. Talking about the Affordable Care Act, she said most of the debate in Washington has taken place in an “evidence-free zone” and “that is precisely why we need what you are doing so badly … to get back to evidence-based debates and to use that when we need to fix things.”

Clinton, who is rumored to be a 2016 presidential contender, looked toward the future. “Because of your focus on innovation, HIMSS is in a position to see not only what is in front,” she said, “but what’s over the horizon” in changing health care.

“[You] have given us the raw material and that means we can revolutionize health care, improving not only care but lifespan,” she added.

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