I’m getting through my third grueling day at HIMSS14 and if I hear anything else about “integrated communication platforms that connect all aspects of the care continuum and provide flexible tools for population health and the execution of value-based care …” I’m going to slit my own throat.

This year’s show, at least to the media, has become notable for its sheer, utter boredomness. Epic hasn’t bought General Motors, no one is demoing patient teleportation services and no stripper poles can be found in the exhibit hall. Or at least I haven’t found them yet. This year is Population Health and Accountable Care, and everyone’s using the same five or six words to explain that they’re doing. Connectivity. Risk Management. Patient Engagement. Communication Tools. Integration Platforms. Sigh. (HDM hasn’t been silent on this front: check out our features on building population health networks and making financial sense of out ACOs.)

Some of my peers don’t know what to do. There’s going to be some news forthcoming about Stage 2 relief, but meaningful use is old news. The hottest rumors that have swept through the media room are about extra trays of sandwiches being ordered and the flavor of today’s cupcakes; mulling over the perfect 140-character Tweet, waiting for Hillary Clinton to take the stage.

But you know something? I’ve been attending HIMSS conferences since the late 1990s and I tell you this, this show might be boring to many BUT IT’S THE BEST SHOW EVER.

To a person, the hospital execs and physicians I’ve spoken with are doing very hard, extremely complex work to tie together the care continuum, many because they hear the thundering hooves of more state and federal regulations/penalties around readmissions and hand-offs. I’ve never heard so many leaders talk about the sweat involved with tying in long-term care and hospices into their infrastructure, or building I.T. plans that acknowledge they have to go to the patient instead of waiting for patients to come to them.

This is grown-up work. HIT leaders seemed to have learned some hard, bitter lessons from the old playbooks for EHRs, i.e., install them and then complain when physician adoption falls way short of expectations. They’ve come to the realization that physicians aren’t ungrateful for their efforts, they simply can’t use what won’t work in the real world. Population health and accountable care efforts are focusing on getting the analytics in place to understand the clinical needs of patients and passing the data through that lets all the clinicians do what they should do, when they should do it. Sounds simple, but it’s been a long time coming, hasn’t it?

It’s an upheaval, and though it’s being lowballed, what’s occurring right now in the arenas of population health and accountable care are truly rearranging the health care landscape. But can anyone make it sound a little more exciting?

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