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The meaning behind a HIMSS annual conference keynote

Opening keynote speeches usually provide a big-picture outlook on whatever topic a conference is promoting. From this morning’s session at HIMSS10, one would expect the next four days will be focused on the future of wireless in health information technology.

Not to say Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint Nextel Corp., did not give a rousing big-picture look at how wireless — specifically Sprint’s 4G network — will affect health care delivery. Indeed, he seemed to be preaching to the choir, if the sea of faces illuminated by the faint lights of BlackBerrys and iPhones as people were busy texting and emailing throughout the presentation is any indication.

And unlike television’s early Sunday morning advertorials, there were no “ShamWow” moments, although there were plenty of references to what’s happening on the “Now Network.”

Still, the speech seemed a departure from past big-picture keynoters: Last year, actor Dennis Quaid provided a personal reflective on medication safety, giving an account of how his infant twins nearly died in the hospital following a drug overdose. The year before, former U.S. Senator Bill Frist broadly discussed the intersection of politics and health IT.

That intersection is on everyone’s minds this year, as well. As the number of sessions, workshops and pre-conference meetings demonstrate, the hot topic at this year’s HIMSS annual conference is what’s going to happen when providers have to implement meaningful use criteria. Attendees might hear more about that during the Wednesday morning keynote, with David Blumenthal, the physician who heads the Office of the National Coordinator.

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