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Joel Diamond 2/16/10

February 16, 2010 News No Comments

HIMSS: A Physicians Perspective

I am very much looking forward to this year’s Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual lovefest. Other than geeky informatics-loving physicians, this conference is often overlooked by most practicing physicians. It is seen as a vendors’ forum with little relevance to real-life medicine. Having attended HIMSS for many years, I can honestly say that they are very mistaken, and I would urge my colleagues to reconsider.

For me, every HIMSS conference has been memorable. Except for New Orleans a few years ago — but that has more to do with a few too many Hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s. Nonetheless, it was a quite enjoyable experience.

At my first HIMSS, I was astounded when I actually saw hot babes giving out hummers in the exhibition hall. OK, get your minds out of the gutter. They were paid models (AKA “booth babes”) who were giving away chances to win a Hummer SUV.

Quite seriously, and this is important: at a time when most primary care doctors continually lament decreasing reimbursements, the shear ostentatious display of wealth exhibited by the HIT industry is a bit overwhelming. It contrasts markedly with the more modest display presented at most medical trade shows by the pharmaceutical industry.

My father used to tell me that if you want to try to understand the true underlying forces of a complex system, just follow the cash. Nowhere is this more evident than at HIMSS. Let us be clear, however. It is not only the economic realities of healthcare that are blatantly evident, but also the very exciting and palpable opportunities for patient care goals of quality and delivery.

From an educational standpoint, the depth and breadth of speakers at HIMSS is unparalleled. Clinicians wishing to get an initial background in healthcare informatics will not be disappointed. Those docs who find themselves participating in HIT implementations will have a unique opportunity to hear the experiences of many different organizations and individuals. Physicians who find themselves in a new position of selecting hardware or software will find HIMSS to be the showcase to interact with so many users and vendors under a single (extremely large) roof.

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the job that Bill Bria and others have done at the pre-show Physicians IT Symposium — a venue that gets better each year.

And yes, the parties are great. Many are ridiculously lavish, and it’s awfully amusing to watch IT geeks rock.

Ultimately, the highlight of the week is the HIStalk reception. Only one thing to say about that … Inga.

Joel Diamond, MD is chief medical officer at dbMotion, adjunct associate professor at the Department of Biomedical Informatics at the University of Pittsburgh, and a practicing physician at UPMC and of the Handelsman Family Practice in Pittsburgh, PA. He also blogs on interoperability.

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