What is HIMSS Part Deux? And Why Should I Care?

Two consultants and a vendor walk into the convention center. Let me know if you’ve heard that one. I made a new friend at HIMSS. A friend who travels a lot. “How does that affect your life?” I asked her.

“No plants, no pets, no kids,” she replied. I told her she should delete her title from her business cards and replace it with that phrase.

I think the time has come to create an organization that mirrors HIMSS—HIMSS 2.0. The Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) uses IT to benefit those who need health care.

The Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS 2.0) will use IT to benefit those who need to improve their health.

One word—big difference.

In Las Vegas at HIMSS 2016, the emphasis was all about improving care. Vendors displayed hospital beds, hospital carts, and EMR systems; things for sick people, things for people undergoing procedures.


Forty thousand people focused entirely on making patient care better. A good thing. An important thing. Saved my life, twice.

I began to think about all of those people. To my untrained eyes they all looked relatively healthy. They did not seem to have any use for the hospital beds, the medical carts, or the EMR. A bunch of stuff that could benefit them someday. Nothing among the hundreds of thousands of square feet of displays of medical devices and software to benefit them today.

And I wondered if what I was looking at was the ultimate chicken and egg argument. Cause and effect; which came first? Build stuff for patients because sooner or later everyone becomes a patient. Was it possible that individuals who became patients did so in part because healthcare management information systems focus all of their attention making ready for that eventuality? Was it inevitable?

But would there be less of a demand for healthcare information management if more resources were dedicated health information management?

I spent several hours visiting the vendors’ booths, and I asked many of the vendors this question. “I feel pretty health. What can you sell me to help me stay that way? Do you have anything I can purchase to help me know if I am healthy?”

Everyone is talking about wellness and about population health. People are also taking about going to Mars. But at this point all it is is simply talk. Knowing how to do something and doing it are two very different things.

So what would Health Information Management Systems look like? Perhaps it helps to examine what we have today, and determine what is missing. Today, instead of Health Information Management Systems, all we have is Health Data Capture.

Data about health is captured by apps and wearables. We can store it on devices, and we can move it among devices. Data is information; it is factual. I ate two thousand calories; I ran five miles. Data has no meaning until it is interpreted.

I ran six thousand steps. I had a heart attack. My device replied, “You are four thousand steps short of your daily goal.” Any interpretation relies on the user of the app of the wearable. Data without context is meaningless.

We have:

  • Data instead of Information
  • Capture instead of Management
  • Silos instead of Systems

We have nothing to manage our wellness, and providers and payers and pharma offer no services with which to manage the health of the population. Knowing someone had his or her gallbladder removed three years ago tells you nothing about whether that person had heart disease or hypertension. And it tells you nothing about whether they have heart disease or hypertension.

And that is why I started HIMSS 2.0. Our first convention will be in Orlando next year. And because so few people have yet to buy in to the concept, the convention will be held in a Winnebago in the Denny’s parking lot next to the SeaWorld.

HIMSS Part Deux.

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