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ONC Releases Findings on Study of Patient-Matching Practices

Posted on February 28, 2014 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

The ONC has released findings from its study of patient-matching practices in the private sector and federal agencies.

Its conclusion: standardizing specific demographic fields within health IT systems and broad collaboration on industry best practices are two of the key steps the industry needs to take to make advances in patient matching.

In its study, ONC was looking to describe common data attributes, processes, and best practices to assess the industry’s current capabilities in this area. To do so, it did an environmental scan to get a look at current industry capabilities, literature review, feedback received at public meetings, collaboration with federal partner agencies and written comments stakeholders.

Problems it found include differences in the way names and addresses are formatted in various systems which can lead to high rates of unmatched records.

According to a story in FierceHealthIT, the study’s key recommendations include the following:

* Certification criteria should be introduced that require certified electronic health record technology to capture the data attributes that would be required in the standardized patient identifying attributes
* The ability of additional, non-traditional data attributes to improve patient matching should be studied
*Certification criteria should not be created for patient matching algorithms or require organizations to utilize a specific type of algorithm
*Work with the industry to develop best practices and policies to encourage consumers to keep their information current and accurate is necessary

With these me just at the suggestion stage, it’s evident that patient matching needs more attention.

In the past, the ONC has suggested hospitals create a standardized patient identifier during data transactions to make sure the right patient is matched with the correct information. But that won’t address the problem higher-order problem.

Simply being aware that data mismatches on patients a problem is a good first step, but it looks like we have a long way to go before data can be shared from institution to institution accurately without duplicate records and other errors of this type. Interoperability between institutions which allows for accurate patient matching is the real brass ring.

Making Tablets More Effective for Data Capture

Posted on February 27, 2014 I Written By

Dr. Michael J. Koriwchak received his medical degree from Duke University School of Medicine in 1988. He completed both his Internship in General Surgery and Residency in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Koriwchak continued at Vanderbilt for a fellowship in Laryngology and Care of the Professional Voice. He is board certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. After training Dr. Koriwchak moved to Atlanta in 1995 to become one of the original physicians in Ear, Nose and Throat of Georgia. He has built a thriving practice in Laryngology, Care of the Professional Voice, Thyroid/Parathyroid Surgery, Endoscopic Sinus Surgery and General Otolaryngology. A singer himself, many of his patients are people who depend on their voice for their careers, including some well-known entertainers. Dr. Koriwchak has also performed thousands of thyroid, parathyroid and head and neck cancer operations. Dr. Koriwchak has been working with information technology since 1977. While an undergraduate at Bucknell University he taught a computer-programming course. In medical school he wrote his own software for his laboratory research. In the 1990’s he adapted generic forms software to create one the first electronic prescription applications. Soon afterward he wrote his own chart note templates using visual BASIC script. In 2003 he became the physician champion for ENT of Georgia’s EMR implementation project. This included not only design and implementation strategy but also writing code. In 2008 the EMR implementation earned the e-Technology award from the Medical Association of Georgia. With 7 years EMR experience, 18 years in private medical practice and over 35 years of IT experience, Dr. Koriwchak seeks opportunities to merge the information technology and medical communities, bringing information technology to health care.

Six months ago I wrote about the virtues of using an iPad Mini tablet in the patient care setting.  At that time I was using my tablet almost all day, every day for multiple purposes including EMR data capture.  Things went well for a while, but as time passed I used the tablet less and less.  Eventually I stopped using it almost altogether except for displaying and annotating CT images during patient visits.  At first I did not understand why.  Was the non-Retina display finally getting to my 50+ year old eyes?  Was the external microphone I used to improve speech recognition losing performance?  Was the battery fading after 9 months of charge / discharge cycles?  Or was the “gadget lust” of a new tech-toy finally wearing off?

Each of the above may be just a little bit true.  But two other reasons are most relevant to me.  First, my efforts to add a medical vocabulary to the embedded speech recognition failed.  But most importantly, I became frustrated with how difficult the tablet was to hold for extended periods of time.  When I wrote that the tablet was “easily and comfortably held by its edge” I was wrong.  Tablets are beautiful to behold, but their clean lines and smooth surfaces make holding them for extended periods of time very cumbersome.

So I created something that would fix the problem by making a tablet more comfortable and safe to hold.  Now that the provisional patent application is registered I can share the design:

                 figure 11                     

The photos are of a nonfunctional mockup I made out of Styrofoam, balsa wood and spackling compound.  It is a grip that attaches primarily to one edge of a tablet computer and facilitates holding the tablet by its edge rather than the back.  It is shaped to fit the hand and allows both proper hand positioning and proper viewing angle.  It provides a mechanical interface between the tablet edge and a semi-pronated (handshake position) hand/forearm.  Its purpose is to facilitate extended use of the tablet by minimizing orthopedic strain to the hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, shoulders and neck.   The interface with the remaining 3 edges is minimal, preserving the ability to store the tablet-grip assembly in a coat pocket.

The external shell is a composite of plastic, rubber, metal, leather or similar materials.     There may also be a thin covering over the back and/or front faces of the tablet for protection and mechanical stability.  The top side is contoured to engage the thumb and guide the thumb to the home button.   The bottom is contoured to engage the fingers.  This shape gives the thumb and fingers stability and purchase to counter the tablet’s weight and torque in the yaw and roll axes.  The gripped portion has bilateral symmetry to allow left hand or right hand grip.  Openings and mechanical and/or electronic pass-throughs provide access to tablet buttons, ports, etc.  It could also include a stand for self-support on a tabletop and a place to store a stylus.  Some panels could be customized for color, shape (i.e., for different hand sizes) or material.

There is space available within the grip to add hardware and enhance functionality.  Examples include – but are not limited to – extended battery, external microphone / speaker, Bluetooth keyboard interface (to make the composite device appear as a keyboard to an external workstation), wireless USB, and apps that use cloud-based speech to text capability.  Any companion software component – an app – would be loaded into the tablet itself.

I need your help both to estimate the potential of this idea and get some advice on what to do with it next.  If you think this is an idea worth pursuing give me a like on Facebook at the bottom of the article.  If you feel strongly about it give it a Tweet as well.  And if you have some advice I would be grateful to hear it.


Cleveland Clinic, Dell Offer Joint Epic EHR Service

Posted on I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Even when you’re a juggernaut the size of Epic, eventually you’re going to reach the point where your customer base is saturated and you need unique new directions to go. This new deal between Dell and the Cleveland Clinic may do just that for Epic.

This week at HIMSS, the two are announcing an agreement in which the two will offer consulting, installation, configuration and hosting services for Cleveland Clinic’s version of Epic. Under the deal struck between the two parties, customers can choose between a hosted version of the Epic instance and a full install on their site.

Cleveland Clinic execs say that their knowledge of using Epic, which they have for more than three years, will give them special expertise in helping providers adjust to Epic.  The Clinic has been selling Epic to providers  through its MyPractice Healthcare Solutions business.  To date, MyPractice has sold EMRs to more than 400 providers, including physicians, nurse practitioners and midwives within a 50 mile radius of Cleveland.

Working with Dell, the two companies plan to offer the new EMR service nationwide. The Cleveland Clinic will handle the EMR installation for new customers, and Dell provides the technology infrastructure. Epic gets a licensing fee for each of these deals, the customers’ relationship will be with Dell and the Cleveland Clinic.

As Dr. C. Martin Harris, CIO of the Cleveland Clinic, told Modern Healthcare, most medical practices and hospitals have EMRs in place, leaving only a much smaller group of first-time EMR buyers. But, Harris said, that minis still a big number. (And there’s always the practices still looking to switch.)

Turning Dell and the Cleveland Clinic into a sales channel for Epic seems like a pretty smart move. With the help of players who know the smaller physician practice market, it might open up a new opportunity for Epic which it hadn’t much of a shot at before.

#HIMSS14 Highlights: the Snail’s Pace of Interoperability

Posted on February 26, 2014 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

Ah, HIMSS. The frenetic pace. The ridiculously long exhibit hall. The aching feet. The Google Glass-ers. As I write this, day three for me is in full swing and I’ve finally managed to find some time to reflect on what I’ve seen, which includes a ridiculously long taxi queue at the airport, more pedicabs than I can count, beautiful weather and lots of familiar faces, which is what makes HIMSS so much fun. I’ve heard lots of buzzwords and sales talk, and seen only about an eighth of the exhibit hall, barely scratching the surface of what’s out there on the show floor.

Several common themes stand out based on the sessions and events I’ve been to, and the passions of those I’ve encountered. Whether it’s vendor breakfasts, social networking functions, exhibit elevator pitches or educational sessions, interoperability and engagement are still the buzzwords to beat. This particular HIMSS has given me a different perspective on each, and offered new insight into what’s happening with the Blue Button Connector. I’ll cover each of these in HIMSS Highlights posts over the next several weeks, starting with interoperability.

The industry seems far more realistic this year regarding interoperability – downright frustrated by the slow pace at which such a lofty goal is proceeding. Industry experts Brian Ahier and Shahid Shah perhaps expressed it best during a lively panel discussion at the Surescripts booth:





Putting vendors’ feet to the fire will certainly initiate a quick and painful reaction, but probably not a sustainable one. True momentum will occur only when providers get singed a bit, too. Panelist comments at a Dell / Intel breakfast on analytics for accountable care brought this into sharper focus for me. The fact that too many disparate EMRs (and thus too many vendors poised to cause inertia) are making it hard for analytics to successfully be adopted and utilized at an enterprise level, highlights a bigger problem related to hindsight and strategy.

From my perspective – that of an industry observer and commentator – it seems many providers felt compelled to purchase EMRs because the federal government offered them money to do so, and hopefully just as many were optimistic about the role technology would play in positively affecting patient outcomes. Vendors saw a great business opportunity and moved quickly to develop systems that met Meaningful Use criteria (not necessarily going for best-fit as related to workflow needs and usability). Neither group truly knew what they were in store for, especially regarding longer term plans for health information exchange.

Providers now find themselves wanting to move forward with health information exchange and greater interoperability, but slowed down by the very IT systems they were so insistent on purchasing just a few years ago. Vendors (some more than others) are hesitant to crack open their products to allow data to truly flow from one system to another, and who can blame them? The EMR market, in particular, is poised to shrink, which begs the question, who will survive? What companies will be around at HIMSS 15 and 16? Those who keep their systems siloed, like Epic? Or those who are trying to break down the silos, such as Common Well Alliance members like athenahealth and Greenway?

It makes me wonder if providers wouldn’t have been better served with just had a handful of EMRs to choose from around the time of HITECH, all guaranteed to evolve as needed and play nicely with each other in the interest of health information exchange. Too many options have caused too many barriers. That’s not just my opinion, by the way. I’m willing to bet that a sizeable chunk of the 37,537 HIMSS 14 attendees would agree with me.

Do you disagree? Are providers (and patients) better served by more IT options than less? Let me know your thoughts, and impressions of interoperability advancement at HIMSS, in the comments below.

#HIMSS14 Twitter Roundup – Take 2

Posted on February 25, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

We’re back again with some interesting tweets that I found from today’s #HIMSS14 Twitter stream.

Little summaries like this is why I love Twitter and why you can enjoy #HIMSS14 even if you don’t attend. I’m not sure I agree with the idea of a common EHR, but all the various EHR software need to exchange data.

There’s certainly a balance with the data. I’m honestly not sure if structured or unstructured will win out.

I like what Stoltenberg is doing as well. Although, I’ll be even more interested in their answers to the questions they receive.

We do have more knowledge in healthcare than ever before. Although, I think we’re still just at the brink of the information we will have in healthcare. We do need to start now to make sure we find the best ways to appropriately filter the information so that only the relevant information is shown in the right context.

The best part of HIMSS is the people. Especially when you dig in and learn the true realities. Most have really good intentions and goals.

One of the really beautiful parts of social media. Meeting people you feel like you know because you’ve engaged with them on social media.

Thanks Mandi for this amazing picture of the New Media Meetup. The place was hoping and so many people told me so many kind things about the event. I’m glad that so many people enjoy the event as much as I do. Thanks to Stericycle Communication Solutions for making the event go off so well. An enormous thanks to @tammylinntran and @mandibpro for helping me out at the check in. They are both beautiful people inside and out.

#HIMSS14 Twitter Roundup

Posted on February 24, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I think that Jim Hollis captured part of my experience at HIMSS14 really well:

Indeed! I’m so busy at HIMSS with meeting and talking with people that I have little time to tweet. I just do a little in the evening when I catch up and might send out a few tweets here or there. With that said, the #HIMSS14 hashtag has been hopping. Here are a few of the interesting tweets I found during day 1 of HIMSS.

I had another doctor tell me almost exactly the same thing today. It was her first time at HIMSS and it was interesting to have her describe the different in what she saw and heard at HIMSS and the realities she faced back at work.

Definitely interesting to see the packed room at HIMSS. I think that everyone is trying to figure out how analytics will influence outcomes, because no one knows how to do that yet. I wonder if the session did anything to improve on people’s understanding. My guess is it probably didn’t do much for those that attended.

This is a little self serving since it was from the session I did today with Shahid Shah and Cari Mclean on Social Media and Influencing. People had kind things to say about the event, so hopefully those that attended got value.

I just love these kind of pictures. Sorry you can’t blow it up bigger, but it covers most of the topics you’d expect to see.

I didn’t see this in person, but it looks pretty killer. I wonder what software they use to control them all. Or maybe they’re not connected to any specific software to coordinate them. Cool look though.

Also, it’s not a tweet, but check out this video that CDW launched at HIMSS (What Does the Doc Say?):

You might be an #HITNerd If…

Posted on February 23, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

You might be an #HITNerd If…

you collect selfies of #HITsm and #hcsm peeps and Farzad Mostahari is your most collectible selfie.

Find all our #HITNerd references on: EMR and EHR & EMR and HIPAA and check out the new #HITNerd t-shirts, hat, and phone cases.

Note: Much like Jeff Foxworthy is a redneck. I’m well aware that I’m an #HITNerd.

2015 Edition EHR Certification Criteria NPRM Out as a #HIMSS14 Present

Posted on February 21, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

HHS just sent out the announcement about the 2015 Edition EHR Certification Criteria (“2015 Edition”) NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making). I guess the new ONC coordinator didn’t learn from the last time an NPRM was released during HIMSS. It ruined a lot of people’s time at HIMSS as they scoured the rule. Although, I don’t think the 2015 Edition will be quite as big of a deal as the original MU NPRM. You can sure many people will enjoy the 2015 Edition NPRM as some light reading on their airplane ride to HIMSS. I’m sure HHS wanted it published before HIMSS so they could talk about it during their sessions at HIMSS as well.

Here’s the announcement and for those that don’t want to filter through the fluff of the full final rule, here’s a great 2015 Edition Fact Sheet.

The HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) today issued proposals for the next edition (the “2015 Edition”) of electronic health record (EHR) technology certification criteria.

This proposed rule marks the first time ONC has proposed an edition of certification criteria separate from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ “meaningful use” regulations. The proposals represent ONC’s new regulatory approach that includes more incremental and frequent rulemaking. This approach allows ONC to update certification criteria more often to reference improved standards, continually improve regulatory clarity, and solicit comments on potential proposals as a way to signal ONC’s interest in a particular topic area.

“The proposed 2015 Edition EHR certification criteria reflect ONC’s commitment to incrementally improving interoperability and efficiently responding to stakeholder feedback,” said Karen DeSalvo, M.D., M.P.H., national coordinator for health IT. “We will continue to focus on setting policy and adopting standards that make it possible for health care providers to safely and securely exchange electronic health information and for patients to become an integral part of their care team.”

Compliance with the 2015 Edition would be voluntary — EHR developers that have certified EHR technology to the 2014 Edition would not need to recertify to the 2015 Edition for customers to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs. Similarly, health care providers eligible to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs would not need to “upgrade” to EHR technology certified to 2015 Edition to have EHR technology that meets the Certified EHR Technology definition. “This provides the opportunity for developers and health care providers to move to the 2015 Edition on their own terms and at their own pace,” said Dr. DeSalvo.

The proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register on February 26, 2014. ONC will accept comments on the proposed rule through April 28, 2014. The final rule is expected to be issued in summer 2014.

For more information, visit Standards and Certification Regulations page on

Where the Health IT & EHR Jobs Are: Take Two

Posted on I Written By

When Carl Bergman isn't rooting for the Washington Nationals or searching for a Steeler bar, he’s Managing Partner of the last dozen years, he’s concentrated on EHR consulting and writing. He spent the 80s and 90s as an itinerant project manager doing his small part for the dot com bubble. Prior to that, Bergman served a ten year stretch in the District of Columbia government as a policy and fiscal analyst, a role he recently repeated for a Council member.

There’s Epic and Then There’s Everybody Else

In the first EHR job review, I looked at the demand for EHR/HIT certifications from organizations such as AHIMA. In this review, I wanted to find the most in demand product certifications. That is, if you’re thinking about being certified in a product, which ones have the most openings? There are two short answers:

  • It’s complicated, and
  • Epic

Where to Look?
Finding openings in the first review was straightforward. In this case, compiling a list of product certifications was more complex.

To start, I assumed that the bigger a company’s market share, the more likely there would be openings. This led to asking, what were the vendor shares? For an answer, I used SK&A’s recent report. They continuously call practitioners about a host of issues. Most other studies are either self selecting web polls or use ONC’s attribution stats. The latter is a hard count, but doesn’t take into account those who don’t participate in MU. In a subsequent post, I’ll cover SK&A’s report and market shares in more depth.

Based on SK&A’s report, here’s the market share for the top 20. Among these, I looked for product certifications for the top dozen, which had a least 2.0 percent of the market.

Table I
EHR Market Share by Practioner Site Size
SK&A – January 2014








 Epic Systems Corporation



 MedPlus, A Quest Diagnostics Company






 eMDs, Inc.









 Practice Fusion



 Sage Software



 NextGen Healthcare



Office Ally



 General Electric Healthcare IT



Community Computer Service Inc.



 Cerner Corporation



 BioMedix Vascular Solutions



 McKesson Provider Technologies



 NexTech Systems, Inc.



 athenahealth, Inc



AdvancedMD 1


10, Inc.



 All Other Vendors (471)



 Greenway Medical Technologies, Inc.




Search Issues

In the prior review, it was simple to find CCA, CPHIMS openings, etc. Product certifications, as a rule, don’t have unique names and may be referred to in many ways. Typical variations for NextGen, etc., are:

  • Certified NextGen professional,
  • NextGen certified,
  • NextGen professional certification, etc.

In addition to these identification issues, there is also the issue of specialties. For example, Epic has about 40 apps from ADT (Inpatient and Outpatient Admission-Discharge-Transfer Application) to Wisdom (Dental Application).

Due to this complexity, and being interested in the relative demand for product certifications, I developed this search protocol, which seems to yield good results:

  • Source. As before, I looked for jobs posted on in the last 30 days.
  • Limits. Only look for major product names, that is, not their product varieties.
  • Terms. For each product, I searched for three phrases that varied the product name and the word certification.

Here’s how, for example, here is how I searched for Allscripts’ certifications:

  • Allscripts certified
  • Allscripts certification, and
  • Certified Allscripts

As a check, I also did a Google search for Allscripts and certification to see if I missed a substantial number of openings.

This approach yielded, I believe, a representative group of openings, but it’s not all encompassing. For example, some job ads combine product names. An ad might say Allscripts/Epic certification, but the search engine won’t find Allscripts.

Searching for the words Allscripts and certification will capture more certification openings, but it also will bring up a slew of unrelated others.

The best way, then, to find these openings would be to search for the company name and certification, etc., within so many words of each other. This is called a proximity search. Many text search engines do proximity searches, but I don’t know of a job search engine that does.

Product Certification Openings

With that said, Table I shows the 134 openings I found among the top ten EHRs with 2 percent or more of the market.  This is quite low compared to the general demand for persons with Cerner, NextGen experience. Of the 134, Epic with 90 percent dominates. Only NextGen, with 11 has any other significant demand.

Table II
Product Certification Openings













Chart I shows the states with significant openings. It also shows how  a state’s openings rank compares to its population ranking:

  • Red Columns. Openings per state.
  • Purple Columns. These show how a state’s jobs rank compares to its population share. For example, if a state’s job rank is plus four then its jobs are four levels above its population rank. Conversely, if a state is minus four, its share is four less than its population rank.

It’s no surprise that the states with the largest populations have the most jobs. California leads with 36 openings. There are notable exceptions, such as Colorado, whose openings far outrank its population rank.

To Certify or Not To Certify

I was surprised that several products, such as eClinicalWorks, had no demand. There’s a good reason. From what I later discovered, eClinicalWorks, among others, doesn’t certify users of their products. Indeed, I found it is difficult to know which products have certification programs. Even if they do, it’s not easy to find details. For example, I’ve called and written Epic to find the details of its programs, but so far no response.

As a result, I’ve decided to look at the vendor certification program issue. I want to find out from vendors why they do or do not have programs, their market targets and their level of participation.

The lesson from this review is simple, if you have an Epic certification and live in California, you have good odds of finding a job match. If you are looking to become certified in a product, Epic would appear to be your best shot. However, that may not be the case.

Product specific certification programs are odd beasts. Much depends not only on your product experience, but also on the product vendor’s attitude toward you. Some vendors may have an open door to those who want to learn the product. Others, such as Epic, insist that you be part of an active Epic practice and they do all the training at their Verona, WI headquarters. There is no easy or accessible way to know the ground rules unless you are already using or have used the product.

If you are already familiar with a product, you may find that using social media and personal contacts are the best path to new work rather than setting out to be certified in another product.

Some Frank #HIMSS14 Advice

Posted on February 20, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

HIMSS 14 Keynote Area
*The above picture is a preview of the HIMSS 14 stage from @eqrunner. It’s coming together nicely.

As I mentioned previously, I’ll be at HIMSS 2014 in Orlando all next week. It’s a great event for me to get a really good feel for what’s happening in the healthcare IT industry. I’ve gone through hundreds of PR pitches from companies and have my agenda full of meetings where I’m looking to extract the latest trends and happening in the healthcare IT and EHR industry.

However, if you’ve never been to HIMSS before, it can be an overwhelming experience. While this is only my 5th HIMSS, I think I have some insights and suggestions that will help you have a better experience. Plus, for fun you can look back at the HIMSS suggestions I made back in 2011 and see how they differ today.

Keep Meetings Short … or Long
We covered keeping meetings short in my 2011 post as well. Although, I’m considering a more nuanced approach to the idea of short meetings. This year I was really close to shunning short meetings and engaging in all long meetings with both sides of the conversation well prepared for the meeting. I didn’t quite get there, but I think there’s a case to be made for some long and some short meetings. However, you don’t want something in the middle where you avoid really digging in because of time. I’ve personally chosen to schedule mostly 30 minutes meetings with 30 minutes between meetings. That means that if the conversation is really interesting, I can extend to 45+ minutes before I have to run (sometimes literally) off to my next meeting.

Cut Through the Puffery and Buzzwords
There are going to be a lot of people spewing all sorts of puffery and buzzwords. Don’t be afraid to call people out on it. You don’t have to be mean and disrespectful, but be frank and honest with the people you meet. The best way to get to a deeper conversation is to not be afraid to challenge what someone’s saying. Just do it in a way that’s interested as opposed to bombastic. Ask thoughtful questions and listen more than you talk. Don’t be afraid to dig in a little and connect with someone or some company on a deeper level. Sometimes that requires you sharing a little of your insecurities as well. If everyone you talk to says everything is rosey and perfect, than you’ve missed out on really connecting with someone.

Plan Travel Time
Related to the last point, plan on plenty of travel time between meetings. The convention center and exhibit hall are large. It can take you 10-15 minutes of fast walking to just get from one end to the other. It’s always better to be 15 minutes early and have a little time to browse the surrounding booths or grab a drink before the next meeting than it is to be 5-10 minutes late. Late meetings happen at HIMSS, but I try to really avoid it. It’s respectful of the person I’m meeting.

Don’t Follow the #HIMSS14 Hashtag During HIMSS
I use to love the #HIMSSXX hashtag, but now it’s too much during the show. You can’t keep up, there’s too much repetition, and other poor quality tweets. I do suggest you browse #HIMSS14 leading up to HIMSS. Identify 20-40 key people you should follow and add them to a Twitter list. Then, just watch the Twitter list. Start by adding @HIMSS14 to the list and then I’m a little bias to @ehrandhit, @techguy, and @healthcareITJob. I also look forward to tweets from independent thinkers like @fredtrotter, @MandiBPro, @john_chilmark, and @laurencstill to name but a few (Apologies in advance to the hundreds of others that I could have listed).

Skip Most of the Keynotes
I usually get excited for the HIMSS Keynotes. This year they are pretty disappointing to me. I would like to hear Erik Weihenmayer, but will sadly be on a plane. Also, I’ll probably hear what Hillary has to say, but it seems a bit much to have two Clintons in a row. Considering her pending presidency run I don’t expect any fireworks from her. The other keynotes have the government muzzle and if you’ve been to mHealth Summit and/or Health 2.0, then you’ve heard the Aetna pitch before. Needless to say, I’m not going to HIMSS for the keynotes. Plus, anything really interesting that’s said will be tweeted out thousands of times. That’s enough for me.

Carefully Select Sessions
As an extension of the keynote comments above, be really careful which sessions you choose to attend. Avoid ones that look like a sales pitch for a specific company. I know that my colleague Neil Versel loves the HIMSS sessions. I usually lean away from them towards more time on the show floor.

One session I’m torn on is the CCHIT Summit with four of the past ONC heads. I have little doubt it will be standing room only (not fun), but I’m not sure it will be anything special. They have a reporter from the Wall Street Journal who’s been covering Obamacare (Note: not the HITECH Act) that won’t likely be able to dive into the real issues and challenges with meaningful use and healthcare IT. I do love to hear Dr. Brailer talk, but Farzad is probably a couple years from being really interesting. His heart is still very much with his colleagues at ONC and so it should be. I wish HIMSS would focus their sessions on practical sessions only. Leave all the big picture thinking and pontificating for the interactions at the event.

It’s About People
I’ve found my HIMSS experience is always directly related to the quality of people I spend time with at the event. If you can find and surround yourself with really smart people, you’re going to come away from HIMSS with a lot of value. The good part is that with 37k+ people at HIMSS, there are a lot of amazing minds in attendance. The only challenge is finding them. To use a baseball analogy, if you can bat .200 when it comes to meeting with smart, insightful people at HIMSS, you’ll go away happy. Up that to .300 and you’ll never stop going. I’ve found Twitter a great tool for learning about someone before meeting them and then engaging them for a meeting at HIMSS.

Get Power When You Can
While I think that mini battery chargers are a great thing to have, I’ve always found that it’s best to get power when you can get it. It’s always annoying at the end of the day when your cell phone is flashing red as you try to get one more text or tweet out before it dies. This has been less of an issue for me with my latest Samsung S3 and Chromebook(10-12 hours of batter life), but with the long days at HIMSS I still just get power when I can.

Enjoy a Night Out
While many people look at these evening parties as a time for some craziness at HIMSS, I look at them as a way to connect with someone on a more personal level. There’s something that connects people in a new way when you’ve shared an evening with someone with some good food, drinks (I take Sprite), music, and maybe some singing or dancing. It’s all about relationship building and enjoying time together with people you enjoy. In fact, I’ve enjoyed planning out our evening plans on Twitter with many people. Unfortunately, my event on Tuesday evening is at capacity, but here are some of the other events close to the convention center that I’ll likely stop by: Perceptive Software, Kronos, and Qlik (The ICEBAR is a pretty cool venue).

Looks like Orlando is ready for HIMSS 2014. They have the signs up in front of the convention center:
HIMSS14 Orlando Sign