The Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum recently returned from the annual HIMSS Conference, held this year in Orlando, Fla. Below, several of the team members who attended HIMSS14 share their thoughts on key take-aways, new ideas and interesting lessons learned at the event.

 By Cindy Munn, CEO (Twitter: @CindyMunnCEO)

The opportunity to discuss HIE sustainability at HIMSS was an incredible privilege for me. This issue is one that so many HIEs across the nation are facing, and I was quite proud to discuss not only what has worked for the Louisiana Health Information Exchange, but also to talk about what didn’t work for us. My goal was for those who attended my session to come away with an understanding of how important it is to know their environment, to identify the needs of their stakeholders and to collaborate across stakeholder lines to build a sustainable business model.

And that is one of the reasons I enjoy attending HIMSS each year: because it’s an environment that is focused on collaboration with others…not just providers and vendors, but also consumers, patients, payers, businesses and others. The message of collaboration is one that resounded through the halls of HIMSS14, and I was very excited to be able to share in the delivery of that message.

I was also very impressed with the excitement and discussion around the issue of interoperability. This, to me, is a critical component of what we are all trying to accomplish through health IT. If our systems cannot communicate, cannot meaningfully share information, we will not be successful in our mission to improve health and health care in our nation.

Innovation, interoperability, patient engagement, meaningful use – these concepts represent exciting and positive changes in the delivery of care in our country, and through events like HIMSS, we all have the opportunity to share in those changes.

 By Nadine Robin, HIT Program Manager (Twitter: @HITNadine)

One of the key words for me at HIMSS14 was “collaboration.” The conference gave me a chance to meet with other HIEs and RECs and get new ideas not just on things we can do, but on how we can collaborate with them on projects together. Collaboration is a crucial element in bringing these health IT measures together, not just in our individual states, but in the nation as a whole.

Another hot-button word for HIMSS14 was “innovation.” I always love the vendor hall and seeing the innovation and creativity.  There were several new-to-me companies that I am looking forward to talking to some more. The technology on display in the exhibition hall is always fascinating, and this year was no different. These companies were excited to be a part of HIMSS and to showcase their incredible services.

I also enjoyed my HIMSS duties this year as president-elect of Louisiana HIMSS. I had the opportunity to attend chapter leaders meetings, president/president-elect "meet-ups," and was a part of our Gulf Coast Chapters reception with Alabama and Mississippi. There was a lot of interesting discussion about how HIMSS can support members in local chapters.

But speaking even more personally, there is no denying that for me, speaking at HIMSS14 was the highlight of this year’s conference. I so enjoyed leading the discussion around patient engagement for small clinics. The audience was engaged and shared so many interesting ideas.  My favorite was a provider who said his practice had figured out how to get patients to use their portal and communicate through it – his solution: simply ask the patient to try it out. I found this particularly interesting because we are often so sidetracked by the requirements of meaningful use and the amazing wealth of technology available, that we sometimes forget that simple is better.

 By Linda Morgan, Marketing & Communication Director (Twitter: @LLMorgan626)

I was thrilled to see the growing interest in patient/consumer engagement at HIMSS14 - it's about time! As a communicator, I feel this is my biggest challenge today, and the most important one. The sessions I attended on this topic were informative and gave me a lot of good ideas that I can perhaps implement here in Louisiana.

This is why networking is a key benefit of HIMSS14 - we're very lucky that we can communicate in so many ways today (e.g., text, phone, email, webinars, phone conferences, etc.), but nothing beats face-to-face communication, especially with a group of like-minded, excited health IT advocates.

Another session that was particularly valuable to me involved crisis communication. As the speaker noted, "If a security/privacy breach hasn't affected your organization/facility yet, it will, it's just a matter of time." While I hope this will never happen, I know it's important to be prepared and ready to act if anything should occur. This was a good reminder to regularly revisit disaster/crisis communication plans.

Another interesting observation was seeing how "plugged in" we all are - laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc., and the need for outlets, power strips, batteries and chargers. I love all of these tools, but I'm also going to keep my notepad and a pen with me as back-up!

 By Michael Zarruk, HIT Account Coordinator

Of course, my two favorite sessions at HIMSS14 were those of  Nadine Robin, our Health IT Program  Manager, and Cindy Munn, our CEO. Their topics – patient engagement and meaningful use and HIE sustainability, respectively – were both timely and interesting, and gave us the opportunity to hear the insights of others on these important issues.

Outside of their sessions, though, I did particularly enjoy the session titled, "Coordinated Clinical Decision Support: Improving Care and Clinical Quality Measurement." The implementation of a Clinical Decision Support Rule is one of the core measures included in Meaningful Use reporting. This session focused on how organizations can institute a coordinated clinical decision support rule that is integrated to improve both care and patient outcomes across the board. The presentation also addressed how this approach can be optimized to be in compliance with federal, state and private payer reporting guidelines. I believe these ideas could be helpful to larger organizations that are participating in multiple programs such as the EHR Incentive Programs through Medicare & Medicaid, PQRS, Patient-Centered Medical Home Recognition.

I must add, also, that I personally enjoyed the opportunity to network with health care professionals around the globe. The annual HIMSS conferences present us with the chance to not only learn what others are doing to generate positive results, but also to learn about ideas that weren’t so successful and why. It’s important, as health care evolves through the implementation of health IT, to hear both the positive and negative stories and to learn from them all.

Health care reform has changed the way we look at health care. There is a great deal going on in this changing environment, including the EHR Incentive Programs, Administrative Simplification, ICD-10 and Quality Measurement…the list goes on and on. It is a lot to keep up with, and it is more important now than ever before that health care organizations and professionals have game plans to address challenges presented through these programs.

For me, however, one of the hottest topics at this year’s HIMSS conference was patient/consumer engagement. From the various discussions about this issue at HIMSS, I learned that patient engagement is important not only to those participating in Meaningful Use, but also for HIEs across the country. Health information exchanges are a critical component in providing patients/consumers with access to their health information, and it is imperative that we engage and educate patients and consumers in their use.     

As always, I came away from HIMSS with new ideas and a refreshed focus on the implementation of health IT. It was an honor and a privilege to discuss these new ideas with dedicated health care and health IT professionals from around the globe.

 By Jamie Martin, Marketing & Communication Coordinator (Twitter: @DavisJamie77)

As a first-time HIMSS attendee, I was somewhat overwhelmed on the first day. Walking into a gigantic convention center filled with nearly 40,000 of the world’s top minds in health care and health IT was a little intimidating…but only until I realized that these great minds had come together with a goal identical to my own: to learn how to change health care and health outcomes using the best technology available.

As a communicator, I wanted primarily to learn more about how to educate patients and consumers about these exciting new resources, so my personal focus was on patient engagement and communication strategies. I was particularly excited to sit in on a session focused on how health IT can help caregivers – as one of the nation’s fastest growing groups, the caregiver population represents a unique opportunity to improve care on a whole new level, and I was thrilled to see it included for the first time ever at HIMSS14. My favorite take-away from this session was, “Technology can be the antidote to the sense of aloneness that caregivers have.” It inspired me to find new ways to reach out to this population with education about health IT resources.

I found the session presented by Indiana’s HIE to be quite interesting as well. I loved that the HIE’s leadership presented not only the communication methods that worked, but also issued ‘words of warning’ to other HIEs. Messages such as, “Err on the side of caution,” and, “Do not underestimate the time required to address policy issues,” truly resonated with me.

Also of personal interest was the session on digital marketing and health IT. It dawned on me in that session that marketing is very much an unsung hero in patient engagement, and I would encourage others to remember that marketing is a form of patient engagement. Through resourceful, innovative marketing strategies, we communicators can help to inspire patients to truly want to engage in their care.