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HIMSS 2017 conference: new health IT beyond meaningful use and EHRs

This blog post is part of our Essential Guide: HIMSS 2017 conference coverage and analysis

The HIMSS 2017 conference, as usual, put up some good numbers.

This year’s edition of the country’s biggest annual gathering of the health IT tribes registered attendance of 42,286.

That crowd was enough to jam Orlando’s capacious Orange County Convention Center and signal that health IT as an industry is in robust health, even if a lot of the chronically ill patients HIMSS vendors are trying to manage are not.

The HIMSS 2017 conference was notable, among other things, for pretty much unfolding without controversy about some major government regulatory issue, such as the meaningful use and information blocking wars of recent years.

Sure, CMS and ONC were at the HIMSS 2017 conference, but their people, by their own admission, didn’t have much to say about their and their agencies’ roles under the new Trump administration.

Jean Moody-Williams, CMS chief strategy officer for the Quality Payment Program under the MACRA healthcare law, said only somewhat jokingly at a packed HIMSS session on the QPP, after being asked to comment on what to expect under the new administration: “I came up here not to say much.”

This is the first year physicians will track a range of QPP quality measures to both avoid Medicare penalties and earn bonus reimbursement. Reimbursement changes are scheduled to start in 2018.

“I do know this is pressing on everyone’s minds. Our priority right now and the direction we have been given is to implement year one policy as it was finalized,” Moody-Williams said, noting that new HHS secretary Tom Price only recently assumed his post a week before the HIMSS 2017 conference. “We are having discussions and as we move into year two and we know more then we’ll be able to give you additional information … all of which you will have the opportunity to comment on.”

One somewhat surprising development was the significant presence of medical imaging at a show that traditionally has revolved around EHRs and their adjunct software technologies.

Evidence of this was a standing room only crowd of 80-plus at a joint HIMSS-Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine workgroup at the show, an almost unheard of level of attendance.

Monique Rasband, imaging analyst at the KLAS Enterprises health IT market research firm, who was at the meeting, told me that she sees the surge in interest in imaging at HIMSS as a distinct sign that it is becoming part of mainstream health IT.

“Now you’re seeing CIOs and CMIOs taking an active interest in enterprise imaging,” Rasband said.

HIMSS 2017 also was something of a Mecca for the health IT twitterati, with health IT blog publisher John Lynn holding a series of well-attended tweetups.

Toward the end of the frantically busy show, Lynn tweeted out a new HIMSS-related fake ICD-10 code: “HMS17.ORL32: Walked into a lamppost while double-fisting tweeting. Subsequent encounter.”

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