Checking for Vital Signs at HIMSS14

There’s a reason why they are called vital signs. By looking at temperature, pulse, blood pressure and respiratory rate, physicians can assess the status and direction of a patient’s health.

Although my practice days are over, I’m eager to check the vital signs of healthcare IT next week at HIMSS14. By most accounts, the patient is in good shape, albeit under some stress, but the industry’s annual mega-meeting in Orlando will afford me a closer and more thorough examination.

I’m looking forward to taking the pulse of my colleagues as they race to the ICD-10 finish line. I know many have begun and some even completed testing of their conversions. I wonder what has been discovered from this testing? Were there any surprises?

I’m also curious if they might do anything differently (besides “start sooner” and “get help”). Carl Natale’s summary in Healthcare IT News of predicted productivity drops is both grim and engaging. An academic colleague of mine has shared yet unpublished research that indicates productivity losses are offset not by upcoding, but by more effective charge capture.

I’ll also be watching for labored breathing as hospitals look forward to the start of fiscal year 2015 (October 1, 2014) and payment adjustments for Meaningful Use. The report by EHRIntelligence of the indictment of a hospital CFO for Meaningful Use fraud and identity theft will focus the attention of many as they consider certification criteria for EHR.

Remember the 2005 Rand report on health information technology saving $81 billion annually? Well, we’re not there… yet. But I do counsel patients that small steps toward any goal are progress. So I’m looking forward to hearing the latest on business intelligence (BI) and interoperability. Making strides in these areas are keys to meaningful HIT-related cost reduction.

At times when listening to discussions of interoperability, I am reminded of Ahab describing the white whale. In reality, it has more in common with Gene Kranz of Mission Control in Apollo 13, as “Failure is not an option.” At HIMSS we will have the opportunity to hear more about interoperability, especially the ONC’s strategy.

Along with the BI presentations, of which there are many, there is also a bevy of BI-related software vendors that I want to visit. I view the volume of exhibitors this year (and every year) as a strong sign of HIT’s overall fitness.

All of which reminds me to pack comfortable shoes. Walking the vast exhibit hall is enough to get anyone’s heart pumping. Still, a brisk stroll in the convention center beats the snow shoveling I’ve been doing much of the winter.

For my own health, I’m looking forward to warmer weather. Hope to see you in Orlando!