This content is part of the Essential Guide: A guide to news and analysis from HIMSS 2015

Interoperability, IoT, security top HIMSS 2015 agenda

HIMSS 2015, the biggest, most popular health IT show, unfolds next month -- with interoperability and health data security in the spotlight.

Harry Pappas, the healthcare technology veteran and impresario behind the Intelligent Health Pavilion at the Health Information Management and Systems Society's 2015 Annual Conference and Exhibition, is one of the countless faces among the nation's biggest health IT show.

For Pappas, president of the Intelligent Health Association -- an independent group that has annually staged the Intelligent Hospital showcase at the HIMSS conference since 2011 (the name has been changed for this year) -- HIMSS 2015 is a place to wow everyone with the latest Internet of Things (IoT) technologies for healthcare from upwards of 60 vendors.

"Part of our organization's mantra is not only to educate today's healthcare professionals about what's out there, but also about where it's going tomorrow," Pappas said.

Healthcare IoT attracts old and new

IoT in healthcare is an emerging area at HIMSS 2015, with old-line companies such as GE Healthcare, Philips and Stanley Healthcare (a division of tools, storage and security giant Stanley Black & Decker, Inc.) plunging full bore along with nimble independents into the rapidly evolving space of connecting infusion pumps, hospital beds and doors to analytics dashboards via real-time location systems, near-field communication and other technologies.

Interoperability, data analytics, and population health systems also are competing for stage time at the event April 12-15, which takes place at Chicago's sprawling McCormick Place convention center. Meanwhile, interest in meaningful use -- just a few weeks after CMS released new proposed rules for stage 3 -- seems to still be simmering.

In that regard, HIMSS 2015 essentially is a high-profile focal point for what is hot in health IT, particularly from vendors. But the conference also distinguishes itself from all the other major health IT gatherings by convening most, if not all, of the major sectors of the business, from EHR vendors big and small to providers, payers, and even policy wonks and government regulators.

Interoperability's impetus expands

The overarching goal of interoperability is seeing new momentum now. That is partly because of increased emphasis on APIs to spur data sharing in the final stage of meaningful use, the new federal Interoperability Roadmap and the Argonaut Project's Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources mission to develop a major new standard, noted Joyce Sensmeier, HIMSS vice president of informatics, who heads up the show's HIMSS Interoperability Showcase.

"It's amazing [to see] all this interoperability," Sensmeier, a registered nurse with a specialty in informatics, said. "A couple of years ago, no one could spell it. On the other side, now everyone thinks they know what it means."

Sensmeier said that, just as Pappas positioned his Intelligent Health Pavilion, the interoperability mini-show will point to the future.

"It's about what providers and vendors should implement today and also look forward," she said. "That's the sweet spot."

Device connectivity -- such as that embodied by IoT applications in hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities and "intelligent homes" in which patients receive care at their residences -- also will likely attract interest all over the HIMSS 2015 conference, including at the Interoperability Showcase.

Also notable at the conference this year is HIMSS' unveiling of a new interoperability certification program, modeled on a pilot effort by the New York eHealth Collaborative, for EHRs, health information exchanges, and health information service providers.

HIMSS annual conference, already big, is growing

Organizers expect attendance to tick up to perhaps an all-time high of about 40,000 this year, up from last year's 38,000, said Joyce Lofstrom, a spokeswoman for the organization who has staffed 11 HIMSS shows.

On the exhibition and special events side of things, there's a slew of shows-within-the show. They range from the new HX350 Innovation Pavilion and Cybersecurity Command Center -- complete with FBI experts in attendance for the first time at a HIMSS conference -- to stalwarts such as the Federal Health IT Solutions Pavilion, Mobile Health Knowledge Center, and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives CIO Forum.

Also new for this year is the Disaster Preparedness Knowledge Center, another indication of just how front-of-mind security has become in the wake of major health data breaches and cyberattacks on healthcare insurers and mainstream cloud networks.

The traditionally official HIMSS culture is also loosening up with a new daylong HIMSS "Your Turn" track in which facilitators and attendees choose impromptu formats and topics, in an approach loosely modeled on more free-form health IT events such as M.I.T.'s HealthCamp.

Keynote speakers include former President Bush

Meanwhile, kicking off hundreds of education sessions is keynoter Alex Gourlay, president of  Walgreen Co., the country's largest drug retailer. Walgreens has set an active pace in incorporating IT into, and providing healthcare at, the company's stores.

Also speaking is former President George W. Bush, whose 2004 executive order created ONC. Closing out the event will be Karen DeSalvo, M.D., national coordinator for health IT, who is expected to defend the somewhat controversial new meaningful use stage 3 rules.

"HIMSS brings everything together, the education, the networking," Lofstrom said. "And the sessions are designed to meet the attendees' needs to gain information and then go home and put it to work."

 Let us know what you think about the story; email Shaun Sutner, news and features writer or contact @SSutner on Twitter.

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