by Richard Stokes

healthcare-trade-faire-regional-conferenceThis past Wednesday (October 11th, 2011) I attended the 6th annual Georgia HIMSS Healthcare Trade Faire and Regional Conference in Atlanta.  Although this was the first time I attended this particular event I have been to numerous conferences over the years so I knew what to expect and knew what I wanted to accomplish.

The conference was full of an impressive list of speakers and subject matter experts from organizations such as Emory, Piedmont and Grady as well as presentations and information from vendors that are leading the charge in solutions and services for healthcare IT.

I knew that I would be jumping between vendor booths, listening to speakers, eating meals with strangers (always a great opportunity to make new connections) all the while trying to absorb as much information as possible.  But, what I was really hoping to gain from the conference was new information or affirmations on hot topics in the healthcare IT space.  I’m glad to say that I came out a more educated healthcare technology professional – so, mission accomplished.

Here are my highlights:

Organization/Culture Change and how do you manage it? – Whether the organization is implementing an EMR, attesting for Meaningful Use or preparing to change to ICD-10 a critical element to the success of the program is to get the entire organization involved and ‘bought-in’.  Debbie Cancilla, CIO of Grady Health Systems in Atlanta, Georgia said that part of their strategy in attesting for Meaningful Use was that they “recruited a group of physician champions and empowered and incentivized them to push for change and give them the authority to challenge physicians.”

Building Processes and Improving Workflow – As organizations seek to incorporate changes, improving the existing workflows and processes is key to facilitating that change and further driving efficiencies.  Ed Ricks, CIO of Beaufort Memorial Hospital in South Carolina stated that during their EMR upgrade they “streamlined workflows by moving to a single sign on platform using RFID badges to authenticate users.”

Mobility and Integration of everything – From the use of iPads and smart phones to the need to quickly and easily jump from a computer to an exam room and have the ability to view the same patient chart, the demand to be mobile and fully integrated is becoming more and more important.  As mobile technologies continue to flourish and push the envelope they also present their own unique set of challenges for IT departments.  Kevin Yearick, Director of Networked Services at Grady Health System said, when talking about managing mobile devices that are not company supplied, “Whether I want to support a device or not, I’m going to end up supporting it!”

In closing, although I wasn’t able to sit in on all the presentations and panel led discussions that covered areas such as Cloud Computing, Meaningful Use, ICD-10 and HIE initiatives I felt that the conference was a fantastic forum to stay current on the daily changing healthcare arena.

And working for a company that focuses on IT support for private physicians’ practices, it was extremely interesting to get the point of view from CIO’s and CFO’s of hospital systems such as Piedmont, Emory and Grady and to see the same set of initiatives and challenges that the private practices are facing.

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