We recently got back from HIMSS 2011 in sunny, warm Orlando. As ever at this show, there was a lot to take in, a lot of people to talk to, and a lot of new technologies on display. We hope you’ll enjoy our five takeaways from this year’s show, and hope to see you in Las Vegas next year for HIMSS 2012!
1) The Year of the iPad
It seemed as if almost every vendor was either demoing their new, iPad-friendly app, giving away one of Apple’s tablets or both. From what we saw, most of those who had tailored their products to be iPad friendly had done their homework, and the few that hadn’t should’ve spent their time on something else or waited until Las Vegas next year.
So what does this iPad fixation tell us? Is it a flash in the pan or a trend? Based on the conversations we had in Orlando with hospital folk and vendors alike, the (shameless plug alert!) dev work we’ve done to enable our electronic forms solutions on the iPad and other mobile devices and the continuing consumer demand for everything Apple, we’d say the latter. There were also other mobile devices and platforms on show that will push Mr. Jobs and co. to keep raising their game – Google was demoing Google Health and Google Body, its new 3-D wizardry, on Android devices, Samsung was pushing Windows 7 on its forthcoming Slider 7 and watch out for HTC, whose upcoming Flyer tablet may prove popular with us good ol’ boys who remember how to use a pen!
If vendors are to be successful in developing for iPad (plus the just-released iPad 2) and other tablets, they must prove that they understand the pain points of those who are ‘in the trenches’ and have developed solutions that retain the ease and speed of paper while bypassing its limitations. Otherwise, like so many technologies in the HIT space, it’ll be a lot of buzz that hospital users will tune out.
2) Cloudy Skies in Orlando
We don’t mean the weather, which was perfect, but rather the real shift toward cloud-based healthcare solutions. Are you reading this, Jonathan Bush? If so, we know, we know, you’ve been saying this for years. Athenahealth broke the mold with their cloud-only EMR/EHR offerings and new pricing models, and now many other vendors (including such innovators as Nuance) have cottoned on, realizing that it’s not a gimmick, folks.
So what’s so appealing about the cloud? Lower demands on existing hardware (which, as anyone working in a hospital will tell you often means older PCs that struggle to keep up with the demands of non-cloud EMR systems), real-time, secure backup, and faster rollouts and upgrades, to name just a few.
3) Bigger is Not Always Better
We understand that HIMSS encourages certain big players to be a floor “anchor” – i.e. to bring a booth big enough to house the Pentagon and a few planes worth of staff to “work” it. Big screens, lots of presentations, fancy giveaways: all the usual hallmarks of big time competitors trying to outdo each other. Some had the booth traffic to justify it, while others had a lot of people standing around trying to look busy.
It was refreshing to see that more of their peers (like a certain green Android-sporting company you may have used for web browsing from time to time) bucked the trend and brought modestly sized, appropriately staffed booths that were comfortably full most of the time without being cramped. Far be it from us to tell successful large companies how to conduct business, but it was nice to have a conversation with knowledgeable people at several Fortune 500 displays without being battered by too-loud presentations, dazzled by large, garish light displays or feeling intimidated by dozens of their colleagues milling around.
4) Dr. Jones will See you Now
As in any industry, the most successful (in how they impact lives, not just their balance sheets) healthcare IT companies are the ones who understand the real needs of those they serve – in this case, physicians, hospital staff and patients. So it was nice to talk to several new vendors that were founded by clinicians or have doctors and/or nurses on staff – such as the good people of Voalte, who we were privileged to sit with at the HIStalk Sponsor’s Lunch (more on that below).
In a world of hype surrounding EHR Meaningful Use, interoperability etc, hospitals need experts who can help them cut through the spin and identify the focused solutions that will help improve patient care and safety, cut costs and truly advance EHR initiatives. Partnering with vendors whose personnel have worked in hospitals (on the technical side, as well as the clinical) goes a long to helping achieve this.
5) Party Time
Yes, HIMSS is the healthcare Super Bowl, where new deals are done, partnerships solidified and existing customers shown new technologies. These aims are and should remain the focus for vendors. But there also needs to be some downtime, and the good people at top healthcare blog HIStalk proved (again) that they know how to throw a party. From the fun (or terror, depending on your comfort level) of the Academy Awards-like red carpet to the acerbic wit of the aforementioned Jonathan Bush, to the fantastic food at B. B. King’s Orlando, this was the hottest ticket in town. The fine folks from Thomas Wright Partners (who marketed the event) were still admitting people at 11.30 p.m.
The HIStalk Sponsors Lunch on Feb 22nd was also an outstanding event. Beyond sampling the wonderful Italian food at Maggiano’s, it was a great opportunity to get to know other HIStalk supporters, to hear from the still-anonymous Mr. HIStalk and to be inspired by the wise words of Ed Marx.