Like most organizations, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society has had a tumultuous few years. The association, which puts on the largest annual healthcare conference in the U.S., was forced to cancel the massive event at the last minute in 2020, amid growing outbreaks of a novel coronavirus that's now plagued the world for over two years.
But HIMSS turned it around for 2021's conference in Las Vegas, which saw more than 18,000 in-person attendees on the ground — though that pales in comparison to the 43,000 registrants at 2019's event. Now, just six months after 2021's event, thousands of payer and provider executives, health IT vendors, researchers and more are once again preparing to congregate for HIMSS22, this time in sunny Orlando.
And the conference is up to its teeth in COVID-19 safety precautions, organizers say. All attendees are required to be fully vaccinated, with at least two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, or one of Johnson & Johnson, while boosters are strongly encouraged. All venues within the HIMSS22 campus have at least hospital-grade air ventilation systems, will use approved cleaners on high-touch areas, and will have socially distanced seating options.
Additionally, the exhibition hall will include wider aisles on the floor, with booths spaced apart. And HIMSS is once again offering a digital track for any executives wary of onsite attendance.
But for those with boots on the ground in Orlando, here are five panels you won't want to miss, touching on some of the hottest topics in healthcare today, from health equity to cybersecurity.
HIMSS Foundation presents: Working Towards Health Equity in the United States
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra along with CMS head Chiquita Brooks-LaSure are headlining this panel on the state of health equity in the U.S. today, a perennial issue that's been thrown into sharp relief during COVID-19 and was a major focus at last year's HIMSS event.
The pandemic has disproportionately ravaged underserved communities, as people with low socioeconomic status, as well as Black, Indigenous and Latino individuals, all experienced higher rates of infections, hospitalizations and deaths from the virus. As a result, the Biden administration has made improving health equity a key prong of its healthcare agenda.
CMS is taking steps like increasingly working to weave health equity into payment models, including for end-stage renal disease and accountable care organizations in Medicare, along with factoring in social risk in measuring star ratings performance in the ever-popular Medicare Advantage program.
Becerra and Brooks-LaSure are likely to stress steps the Biden administration has made on the initiative, and could provide a hint at future directions the administration may take in addressing disparities in medical access and quality for all.
The panel is Tuesday at 12 p.m., in Orange County Convention Center room W320 - Chapin Theater.
Cocktail Hour Panel: Aging in 5G
Telecommunications giants are racing to ramp up their 5G coverage, which has the lowest latency of any cellular network ever, meaning it takes almost no time for the network to respond. Telecom experts say 5G will be able to handle 1,000 times more traffic — and be up to 10 times faster — than today's 4G LTE networks, which (in healthcare) could mean increased reliability for time-sensitive health activities or requests, more web-connected medical devices and better real-time monitoring of patient health, especially outside of the hospital setting.
This session will cover the opportunities and challenges of operating 5G-enabled technology to help people age in place, and includes representatives from some big names in the industry, including Google and AT&T.
Home tech for older people is at the intersection of two major trends in the healthcare industry today: care — including hospital-level care — is increasingly being delivered in the home, and the population is skewing older and older.
By 2030, the Census Bureau projects the percentage of Americans 65 years or older will outweigh the percentage under the age of 18 for the first time in the country's history, making products and tools that can enable aging in place increasingly important.
This panel is at 4:45 p.m. on Tuesday, in room W230A.
An Update from the National Coordinator for Health IT and the CDC
Ensuring the free flow of electronic data across the healthcare ecosystem and modernizing the U.S.'s outdated public health data reporting infrastructure grew in importance during COVID-19. The pandemic illustrated how clunky data sharing can stymie the public health response, leading President Joe Biden to issue an executive order focused on evaluating public health data systems.
Last year at HIMSS, National Coordinator for Health IT Micky Tripathi and Daniel Jernigan, acting deputy director for public health science and surveillance at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, took the HIMSS stage to share lessons learned from the pandemic, including the importance of unifying the public health response, integrating public health into the health tech ecosystem and nixing data sharing barriers.
The ONC and the CDC have an interagency work group on modernizing the U.S. public health response, which has been working on a report in response to the executive order that's supposed to be delivered early this year to the HHS secretary.
Tripathi and Jernigan are returning to HIMSS in this panel, and are likely to share more current thoughts on the nation's public health response — along with a potential update on that report.
The panel is Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., in Orange County Convention Center room W320 - Chapin Theater.
Keynote: Preparing for the 2022 and Beyond Workforce
Resignation rates in the U.S. have skyrocketed, and the healthcare sector has been no different, with workers facing acute burnout and intense stress after two years of COVID-19.
That's resulted in mounting labor expenses for hospital operators forced to spend more on salaries, bonuses and traveling nurses, with a quarter of hospitals reporting to HHS that they faced critical staffing shortages in early January.
The workforce is also experiencing a generational shift, as millennials are projected to make up three-fourths of the global workforce by 2025.
This session will address the ripple effects of the pandemic and the current makeup of the U.S. workforce, hitting on labor sustainability, retaining talent and prioritizing work-life balance. Panelists include Johnny Taylor, CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management; Tamara Sunbul, the medical director of clinical informatics and strategy at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare; and Diane Swonk, chief economist and managing director at Grant Thornton.
The keynote is at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, in the convention center's Valencia Ballroom.
Healthcare: Post COVID-19's Most Lucrative Cyber Target
Cyberattacks have risen in frequency over the past few years. That pace is only expected to accelerate as COVID-19 lingers in the U.S. And the issue certainly hasn't been helped by Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, which caused the federal government to warn hospitals and other companies about the potential for Russian cyberattacks.
This cybersecurity panel includes Hussein Syed, chief information security officer at RWJBarnabas Health, and Michael Melore, executive cybersecurity advisor at IBM.
During the session, Syed and Melore will go over the latest bad actor techniques that are being used to infiltrate healthcare organizations, and the best methods to protect against these increasingly sophisticated and frequent threats — including how hospitals are utilize advancements in artificial intelligence and behavioral anomaly detection to circumvent attacks.
The session is at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, in room W311E.