HIMSS21 kicks off Monday in Las Vegas as the first major healthcare conference to be in person since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns early last year. Its sponsoring group, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), canceled its 2020 conference days before it was scheduled to begin in March due to COVID-19 concerns — concerns that now dog this year's event, as the highly infectious delta variant contributes to rising cases across the U.S.
HIMSS is offering a corresponding digital event for executives wary of onsite attendance. And for attendees on the ground, masks and proof of vaccination are required on the the HIMSS21 campus and in all public spaces, following updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.
But the situation in Las Vegas is worsening, as Clark County sees a surge in cases. As of late July, Clark County was averaging almost 800 new cases a day, up from a low of about 100 reached late May.
And there's early evidence despite the popularity of the annual event, the pandemic has weighed on attendance. According to HIMSS, roughly 18,000 people have registered for the conference so far. That's compared to 43,000 registrants at 2019's event.
But whether attending in-person or via computer screen, HIMSS21 will still be chock full of big names, breaking news and interesting panels. Here are five can't-miss sessions from this year's highly out-of-the-ordinary event.
Preserving the Health of a Population — Early Lessons from a Global Pandemic
Hal Wolf, president and CEO of HIMSS, kicks things of in this Monday keynote where he'll be moderating a slew of public health experts, including the top officials from the World Health Organization and India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, in a conversation about keeping populations safe in a worldwide health emergency.
Insights from this conversation are especially important now, as the delta strain drives rising cases globally despite over a year of efforts to tamp down on the pandemic. Pervasive challenges, including vaccine hesitancy, a shortage of shots in many nations and COVID-19 fatigue, among others, all threaten ongoing efforts by many groups — some represented in this panel — to get the virus under control.
The panel, which will focus on critical areas of concern across population health, and what stakeholders can do to address them, will take place Monday at 5 p.m. in Venetian's Palazzo Ballroom.
Healthcare Cybersecurity Resilience in the Face of Adversity
Cyberattacks have been ramping up in all industries globally, but bad actors seem to recently be targeting healthcare in droves. According to one report from CI Security, breach reports were up almost 36% in the second half of 2020 compared to the first half, while the number of patient records that were breached increased more than 180%.
Without targeted investments in cybersecurity, the situation could only worsen, experts say. The increasing seriousness of attacks could even soon threaten the bottom line of some organizations, and — in a worst case scenario — affect the quality of patient care.
This panel, led by Admiral Mike Rodgers, former National Security Agency director under President Barack Obama, will cover the major cybersecurity challenges facing payers and providers today, and go over strategies so they can ensure risks and exposures to incidents like ransomware are kept to a minimum.
Speakers at the keynote, which takes place Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m. in the Venetian's Palazzo Ballroom, also include Michael Coates, former chief information security officer of Twitter; Katie Moussouris, founder and CEO of Luta Security; Christopher Ross, chief information officer of Mayo Clinic; and Alex Stamos, former chief security officer of Facebook.
Answering the Call: The Importance of Interoperability Across the Spectrum in the Age of COVID-19 and Beyond
National Coordinator for Health IT Micky Tripathi will be joining HIMSS virtually this year for this conversation, taking place Tuesday at 11:30 am in Venetian, Veronese 2501.
Tripathi, who was named head of the Office of the National Coordinator in January, will give an overview of ONC's focus areas in a conversation with Daniel Jernigan, the acting public health science and surveillance deputy director at the CDC.
Tripathi is expected to touch on ONC's ongoing public health data modernization efforts, along with progress on other action items like improving health equity, a key prong of the Biden administration's healthcare agenda; and fostering interoperability. Despite HHS implementing major provisions in two sweeping interoperability regulations finalized early last year, before COVID-19 hit the U.S., numerous question marks still hang over the policies, including an appropriate punishment for providers found blocking the free flow of information between disparate systems.
Tripathi has previously promised further action on codifying disincentives for bad actors before the end of the year, and this panel could provide hints on where the agency's head is at in that process, and what else ONC is doing to build on its data-sharing push.
Health Equity: Taking Center Stage
The Biden administration isn't the only stakeholder laser-focused on health equity. Research has shown that disparities in healthcare access and outcomes have been a perennial problem in the industry for decades, but those inequities have been thrown into stark relief by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 18 months. And the topic is a major trendline at this year's HIMSS conference, popping up in numerous panels throughout the event.
This session features executives working to advance health equity across the healthcare ecosystem, including Ronald Copeland, SVP and chief equity, inclusion and diversity officer at integrated system Kaiser Permanente; Denise Fair, chief public health officer of the Detroit Health Department; and Ivor Horn, the director of health equity and product inclusion at Google.
Panelists plan to dive into the historical, social, epidemiological and demographic context underlying health disparities in the U.S. and illustrate how the pandemic has both exacerbated and challenged the status quo. They'll also address how stakeholders can use data and technology to combat disparities, improving health outcomes for underserved populations, according to HIMSS.
The conversation kicks off Tuesday at 1 p.m. and takes place in Venetian, Veronese 2501.
How has COVID-19 permanently changed healthcare?
COVID-19 has thrown traditional care models into disarray, and many think those changes will persist in some shape or another after the pandemic is well in the rearview, including higher utilization of virtual care models, more care delivery outside of traditional acute settings and higher patient engagement in their health.
But what status quo disruptions will become part of the healthcare landscape in the long-term, and what fresh changes could still be ahead?
At this Wednesday event beginning at 10 a.m. at Venetian, Veronese 2501, panelists will address how novel approaches to care models and technology put in place during the pandemic have resulted in new capabilities to respond more quickly to patient needs and bridge information gaps to better support providers and public health groups.
The panel includes many high-profile speakers, including Amy Abernathy, former acting commissioner and acting chief information officer of the Food and Drug Administration; Danny Lee, the chief medical informatics officer of Johns Hopkins Community Physicians; Andrew Mellin, chief medical information officer of Surescripts; and Keith Shah, vice president of Optum.