Data Blocking and other Loch Ness Monsters at #HIMSS16

A torrent of tweets was unleashed on Day 2 of #HIMSS16. According to Symplur, almost 30,000 tweets were sent with the #HIMSS16 hashtag yesterday.

One tweet was particularly memorable:

The quote comes from John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who was discussing the controversial act of information blocking – where vendors proactively block the sharing of information health information. John Lynn posted a fantastic summary of information blocking here.

That tweet stuck with me and for the rest of Day 2 at #HIMSS16 I was on the lookout for Loch Ness Monsters – things that get discussed, but are almost never seen.

Loch Ness Monster #2 – Interoperability

A close cousin to information blocking – interoperability has been a popular topic again this year at HIMSS. Many vendors are touting new APIs and tools that help make data exchange easier. The HHS even unveiled plans for several initiatives to pave the way for easier information sharing. However, like in previous years, there is a lot of talk, but very little action when it comes to interoperability.

There is frankly very little financial incentive for vendors and institutions to be open with their data. So until the economics change, interoperability will remain a Loch Ness Monster.

Loch Ness Monster #3 – Gender parity

The #HealthITChicks tweetup led by Jennifer Dennard of HISTalk highlighted the issue of gender inequality in healthcare IT. Dennard and a panel of three respected women leaders discussed the progress-made and the progress-yet-to-be made in terms of women being fully accepted as equals in the industry.

The panel pointed to the results of the annual HIMSS Leadership Survey which were revealed in a morning briefing. A key finding of the survey was gender-based pay inequality – “Evidence from the Compensation Survey, for example, suggest female health IT workers are being marginalized in this sector of the economy. Analyzed several different ways, women consistently earn less than their male counterparts. The findings also suggest females are under-represented in IT-related executive and senior management roles in the health sector.”

So apparently we talk a lot about women being equal, but the it’s simply not something that’s seen.

Loch Ness Monster #4 – Patients

HIMSS is by far the largest healthcare IT conference in North America. It attracts attendees from across the spectrum of healthcare. However, there is one stakeholder that is nearly absent – patients. Every vendor talks about including patients in the design of their products and how they consider themselves to be “patient centered” yet there are only a handful of patient advocates and e-Patients at the conference.

Progress has been made in the past few years in terms of patient scholarships, but more can be done to ensure that the voice of the patient is actually seen/heard at the annual HIMSS conference. It’s time for vendors and health institutions to step up.

Loch Ness Monster #5 – Stable WiFi

In the lunch lines, restroom lines and in the aisles of the Exhibit Hall, #HIMSS16 attendees were all asking each other if they knew of a good place to get a stable WiFi signal. To be fair, WiFi coverage this year has been much better than in years past, but there still plenty of people talking about “If you go over there by the window and just under the escalator you’ll get a strong signal”. On two occasions I want to the exact spot recommended by a fellow attendee – only to be disappointed with a single bar of signal strength. My hotspot has rarely seen this much activity in a single day.

What things have you HEARD at #HIMSS16 but have not actually SEEN?

About the author

Colin Hung

Colin Hung

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.