As mentioned in a previous blog post, I attended the annual HIMSS conference held this year in sunny Orlando. Like Crysta Anderson who recently blogged about how social media friendly the event was, I too was impressed by the extent to which HIMSS encouraged use of social media. From free wi-fi (something not available at the Toronto Metro convention centre except in select locations for last year’s OHA HealthAchieve conference) to a social media booth, bloggers and tweeters were made to feel welcome and were encouraged to share their views and experiences.
Will the annual Canadian eHealth conference scheduled to take place this year in Toronto be as social media friendly? Hopefully the experience will be better than it was at last year’s event in Vancouver – hardly anyone was tweeting from the event. COACH, are you listening? Besides having a twitter handle, what will you be doing to encourage bloggers? Also, vendors, take note. A number of vendors at HIMSS held tweetups in their exhibit booths and GE Healthcare even treated a number of bloggers (including me) to an evening a Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
I have been following the debate regarding Health Canada regulation of HIT software (including physician EMR software) and have written several blog posts on this topic. While the Canadian debate seems to have taken place after the regulations were put in place and decisions made to actively enforce them, the US debate is taking place BEFORE decisions regarding how best to regulate health IT for patient safety are made.
As it does for many issues facing the health IT industry, HIMSS is seeking input from the community on how best “to foster a large scale dialogue on the issue”. In a recent blog post (HIMSS actively engages its members and the broader community through blogs and other social media), HIMSS summarizes the current situation in the US and poses the question “What should be the role of the federal government in ensuring the patient safety of health IT products and the settings in which they are utilized?”
Do we need a similar debate in Canada or is the matter already decided? I fear that much of the debate in Canada is taking place behind closed doors and that there is little opportunity for input from the broader stakeholder community.
HIMSS, a US association representing both IT professionals and health IT vendors, has and continues to the lobby the US congress on various matters related to use and adoption of IT by US healthcare organizations. According to a recent article in Healthcare IT News, the association recently encouraged participants at the HIMSS Policy Summit in Washington to “ask lawmakers to ensure that any future policy pertaining to electronic health record incentive programs under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act balance meaningful use criteria and measures with industry readiness, without delaying the timeline for implementation.”
Health IT vendors are an important stakeholder group in the drive to digitize healthcare and their input is critical to shaping effective eHealth policies and strategies. In the US, HIMSS, on behalf of the vendor community, regularly comments on government policy discussions and decisions. According to the Healthcare IT News article, HIMSS’s policy agenda also includes:
- encouraging the US Congress to “enable the study of an informed patient identity solution
- “pushing Congress to work with the Obama Administration to make the current physician self-referral exemptions, or Stark exemptions, and anti-kickback safe harbors permanent”
Although HIMSS has an Ontario chapter, I have seen no indication of similar lobbying efforts by HIMSS in Canada. ITAC Health and the Canadian Medical Association held a two-day think tank earlier this spring which I was privileged to attend. A communique from this think tank is expected this summer.
I had planned on blogging everyday during the eHeatlh 2010 conference in Vancouver. Unfortunately, early in the conference I developed a nasty chest cold and it was all I could do to get through each day. By the end of the day all I wanted to do was go to bed … blogging, unfortunately, was the last thing on my mind.
After several days of rest and pampering at my in-law’s place near Vernon, BC, I am starting to feel somewhat human again and I have the energy to resume my blogging activities. In my last (and only) blog post on the eHealth conference, I mused as to whether attendance was down over previous years. According to several people with whom I spoke the official attendance figure was just over 1700 people. This figure compares with 1597 in 2009 (Quebec City) and 1700 in 2008 (Vancouver).
While attendance at eHealth 2010 did break the previous attendance record, the increase in attendance over the previous record was modest. For all intents and purposes, attendance at the eHealth conference has been relatively stable for the past few years. A similar attendance trend has been noted for the annual HIMSS conference in the US: 27,855 in 2010, 27,627 in 2009, and 29,100 in 2008. Given the economic climate in both countries and the fallout of the eHealth Ontario scandal in Canada (which started to break in earnest at last year’s eHealth conference), a modest gain over the previous record is perhaps quite an accomplishment.
The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) has taken an active role in promoting healthcare IT and eHealth among US government policy makers and politicians. Some have even accused HIMSS as behaving like a lobbyist organization:
While I don’t want to debate whether HIMSS is acting as a lobbyist (I take them at their word that they are not), I do think that they are providing an effective voice for the healthcare IT industry in the U.S. I have heard complaints that Canadian healthcare related associations such as ITAC Health or COACH are not as effective in this regard. What is your view? Are they effectively representing their members views / concerns at the provincial and federal government level? If not, should they step up their efforts in this regard? If so, are there efforts effectively communicated to their members? Should they even be trying to do so?