I haven’t been to Vegas for business since an AHIP conference a couple years ago … for a while I thought it was last year’s AHIP conference, then I remembered during the Vegas AHIP attendees were cautiously enthusiastic about health reform—and that couldn’t have been last year, when vitriol for the reform bill was running in rivers.

That’s why I love big conferences … things always seem to come to a head when you get the I.T. leaders, vendors and regulators in the same place at the same time. Last year, HIMSS was simply gaga about accountable care, and everyone was ready to jump aboard the CMS ship and sail onto a brighter future. The ACO rule had yet to be released, but that seemed to be a minor detail at the time.

Interestingly, the people who weren’t really brimming with ACO enthusiasm were people who had already been doing some hard slogging trying to prepare (see a post-HIMSS blog I wrote up last year) and knew there were surprises galore for anyone daring to tread that path. Enthusiasm for the conference’s signature I.T. theme always abounds, but during last year’s educational sessions there were a lot of somber notes struck about taking clinical technologies to the next level for meaningful use and ACO participation.

Not really sure what to expect during this year’s show, except swollen feet, perhaps one minor hangover (it’s in Vegas, for goodness sake, and there’s gonna be Texas Hold’em and liquor) and a better feel for where the HIT market is going—or at least a feel for where it thinks it’s going.  

I don’t get the sense that the industry is on another buzz cycle like it was circa 2000, when our editorial staff had “Don’t Believe the Hype” buttons pinned to our lapels because of all the hot air around Web-enabled everything. I do, however, think there’s going to be some frenzied sales pitches from EHR vendors, many of whom can see the writing on the wall—a market oversaturated with very similar products, and not enough new customers for everyone to make a buck. I’m sensing EHR vendor acquisitions, mergers and, a few months post-HIMSS, a spate of companies turning the lights off.

Another few more thoughts: I expect to hear a lot of talk about ICD-10, as well as the beginnings of a broad industry uprising against the regulatory timelines in place that CIOs and other I.T. leaders are being asked to juggle. I’ll also be interested to hear of any traction gained on the idea of a national patient identifier system, which has been kicking around since the Clinton era but hasn’t gained much traction in Washington thanks to pushback from many quarters. HIMSS itself issued a call to Congress in September to revisit the idea, and we’ve had CIOs tell us that a patient identifier is moving up their wish list as they get deeper into health information exchanges and the costs and complexity of identifying patients mounts. (A national patient identifier is discussed briefly at the bottom of Gary Baldwin’s recent wish list feature).

And finally, where’s that HIPAA omnibus security rule gone hiding? Wonder if someone at CMS is going to find it and bring it to HIMSS.


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