During the last four years, Hal Wolf has had a close relationship with the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society as an advisor, board member and now vice chair.
So when current HIMSS leader Stephen Lieber recently announced he would retire at year-end and the HIMSS board launched a search process for a successor, Wolf, presently a director at the Chartis Group consultancy, started thinking about going for the position.
“Absolutely my interest peaked, especially the opportunity to positively impact healthcare on a global basis,” he acknowledges. “Thinking of the impact of digital health—my core interest—it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
Neither could HIMSS, which recently named Wolf to the position of President and CEO, a role he’ll assume in September.
The HIMSS community should not expect radical changes in how the organization operates, and while Wolf doesn’t equate himself with Lieber, whom he calls an outstanding leader during the past 17 years, there will be some degree of change in style, particularly a stronger focus on supporting providers, he says. “I come from healthcare at an operational level.”
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HIMSS, Wolf notes, needs to better focus on pressing obstacles such as data integration, health information exchange and delivery of care, as opposed to a focus on health IT itself.
He wants to elevate the role of providers in HIMSS, encouraging deeper collaboration among chief medical information officers, chief clinical officers and others who know both the IT and operational sides, and figure out how to best use information in the care delivery system. “Where do we need to mature in support of the use of information at the provider level—what does that look like?” he asks.
Wolf also wants HIMSS to support expanded use of health information in the C-suite so more informed decisions can be made.
Further, he believes it is time to bring a new focus to another pressing issue—the nation’s healthcare supply chain. In large part electronic health records have eclipsed paper-based documentation, but the supply chain remains largely paper-driven, which not only is inefficient but precludes taking advantage of data if automation can be employed.
Analysis of the supply chain, for instance, could identify the success rates of hip implants, which types of products would work best for a particular patient, and how differences in patient age, demographics and other factors could affect success rates.
More automation in the supply chain and standardization of metrics also could yield insights into getting supply costs under control, he believes. “It’s tough to look in supply chain systems and compare cost and quality locally and nationally to evaluate quality and outcomes. We need comparative digitized information.”
The bottom line, Wolf contends, is that HIMSS has an opportunity to stretch its horizons and get more deeply involved in enabling innovation, through its chapters around the globe.
That said, Wolf does not foresee HIMSS growing at the rate it did during Stephen Lieber’s reign—it now has 68,000 members globally. But reaching out to better serve providers and other stakeholders traditionally not strongly affiliated with HIMSS will bring new opportunities for the organization to add to its value proposition.
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