After all the prep work, the hype, the expense, the social media postings, the second-hand smoke, and the bad Elvis impersonators, the 2106 Las Vegas healthcare-a-palooza better known as the HIMSS conference has officially joined its predecessors in the history books. It came and went as fast as a Thanksgiving dinner one carefully plans for and toils over, only to be inhaled in a few minutes leaving behind a massive pile of leftovers and dirty dishes, as stuffed football fans race back to the living room. In this case, we all raced back to our day jobs full of new ideas, valuable education, inspiring conversations, possible solutions to healthcare challenges, and hopefully, a few new friends.
In many ways, this year’s conference was similar to past events. There was more talk of big data, analytics, population health management, and all the other usual buzzwords we’ve come to expect. There were mystifying magicians, musical MDs, tiny trinkets, long lines, and swanky soirees — again, all the things we typically see. On the other hand, there were some things missing, too. Perhaps the most notable no-show this year was Meaningful Use, and frankly, I wasn’t all that disappointed.
After several years where it seemed to dominate much of the conversation, it felt like a breath of fresh air to take a break from the typical Meaningful Use mania and get back to the business of healthcare. This year, I didn’t see any attendees walking around with their Uncle Sam-prescribed shopping lists, intent on allocating all their available IT budgets to checking the appropriate Meaningful Use boxes. Instead, what I did see were thousands of healthcare leaders, now living in what some have called the “post EHR era," who seemed focused on the current issues in healthcare and making the transition to value-based care.
Having moved past the implementation of certified EHR technology, much of the conversation with provider attendees had to do with optimizing their EHR, protecting their data, securely exchanging their data, and extracting real value from their existing investments. Of course, Meaningful Use is still hanging around. But in many ways (as John Mayer sings), it is "slow dancing in a burning room" as the focus is moving away from prescriptive software features, and as quality reporting efforts prepare to shift into the future MACRA/MIPS world. And while there may still be some evolutionary changes brought about by Meaningful Use, it’s no longer the revolutionary topic on everyone’s mind. As usual, time marches on and naturally, there are more important issues to solve. This may well be a harbinger of better days ahead for the industry, and for so many of us who chose this profession to make a difference in the quality of patient care. I’m looking forward to continuing these conversations with many of you in 2016!