HIMSS conference opens in New Orleans: See you there.

By Patty Enrado, Contributing Editor Healthcare IT News 02/26/07

NEW ORLEANS – Necessity is the mother of invention, Buddy Hickman, chairman of the board of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, told attendees in his opening remarks Monday morning.

The group’s annual conference and exhibition is under way here in the Big Easy. About 25,000 people are expected to attend the event.

Hickman entreats conference goers to take a good look at New Orleans and the HIMSS07 Exhibition Hall. “The rebuilding of this great city and the progress made by our HIT industry over the past several years are proof positive that innovation happens in response to critical challenges,” he said.

The rebuilding of the city parallels the work of HIMSS – reconstructing essential infrastructure. “As the city rebuilds the underpinnings of lives and livelihoods, HIMSS reinvents the ways healthcare information is gathered, communicated, stored and used,” Hickman said. “Both of our missions are urgent and greatly needed.”

While New Orleans has chosen to rebuild their healthcare records electronically, many hospitals around the country, however, are not even considering adopting electronic health record systems. This mindset flies in the face of a recent study that shows a strong correlation between sophisticated electronic records technology and improved patient outcomes and quality.

Hickman believes the industry should close the debate regarding the value of EHR, appreciating that it is central to care in the future. “Placing the focus on quality, patient safety, and necessary clinical process improvements is consistent with HIMSS’ mission and with the reasons why adoption of healthcare information technology was strongly recommended by the Institute of Medicine’s Crossing the Quality Chasm report in the first place,” he said.

Another strategy Hickman encourages is having a singular voice in the industry for goals, policies and messages. On the federal and state level, that means taking a broader view of health information technology in the context of high-priority healthcare issues. “In this way, HIT becomes part of a necessary solution to critical challenges rather than being viewed as a lesser priority competing for funds that some fiscal policymakers may believe can be better used elsewhere,” he said.

HIMSS’ evolving programs such as its Advocacy Day will help hone its message and build a broader coalition with other HIT advocates. The bottom line, according to Hickman, is to advance the cause of HIT in an inclusive way that benefits all providers and patients.

“Through smart public policy, alliances and the right incentives, we can create the right kind of national health information network – one that contributes to quality, safety and better outcomes for all,” said Hickman. “If we don’t do this now, we only create a greater challenge to fix later. So, let’s get it right the first time.”

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