UPDATE: March 5, 2019: After the publication of this article, HIMSS20 was canceled Thursday due to growing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.
As of Thursday morning, the giant health tech conference HIMSS20 is on, despite mounting concern over the outbreak of a novel coronavirus that has killed 11 people in the U.S.
The conference typically attracts roughly 45,000 attendees from more than 90 countries, this year meeting at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Of the more than 150 confirmed cases, three are in Florida thus far.
Attendance will surely ebb this year as many exhibitors have pulled out on concerns about COVID-19. Confirmed pull-outs include heavy hitters Microsoft, Google Cloud, Amazon's AWS cloud business, Salesforce, Lyft, Intel and Cisco. Humana, Change Healthcare, Siemens Healthineers and HL7 have also dropped out or scaled back their attendance.
"As of today, this hour right now, HIMSS is moving forward," spokeswoman Karen Groppe said on a call Wednesday afternoon with reporters. "This is a fluid situation. We go hour by hour right now."
Conference organizers have taken precautions to tamp down on potential virus transmission, including three onsite medical clinics (one just for attendees with flu-like symptoms), an increased number of hand sanitation sites and access to telemedicine services. Information booths will provide medical-grade face masks on demand and the conference will be handshake-free.
Aside from those concerns, one key question heading into the conference is the status of long-awaited rules from the Trump administration. Last year, HHS agencies ONC and CMS released the proposed versions of their twin rules during the conference. Some insiders say the government could use this year's conference to issue the final iteration of the regulations.
Beyond interoperability, hot topics include the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in clinical settings, so-called digital twins for precision medicine, creating a patient-centric revenue cycle, mitigating EHR burden and integrating digital assistants into physician practice.
On the exhibition floor, 1,300 vendors — tech behemoths and startups alike — plan to hawk their products to the thousands of attendees, including EHR giant Epic, which expects to debut its own ambient voice assistant at the conference.
Here are five can't miss panels — should HIMSS proceed as planned.
President Donald Trump makes a last-minute appearance
Conference organizers made waves earlier this week when they announced President Donald Trump would be attending this year's event — the first time a president will attend. The White House is not releasing Trump's remarks, though Groppe said "the president is not coming to HIMSS to talk about coronavirus."
He could address administration's efforts to spur interoperability and give patients better access to their records. Some are speculating Trump could announce the publication of the final rules themselves.
"With the conversations that are happening, it just came to a whole new level that the president wanted to engage with our community," Groppe said. "That's a hard thing to say no to."
HHS Secretary Alex Azar will be joining Trump onstage for his speech, according to Groppe. CMS Administrator Seema Verma is scheduled to speak in a late Wednesday keynote, but has not confirmed with the HIMSS team. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT will have a strong presence at the conference as well, with ONC head Don Rucker slated to speak at a Wednesday morning session with Surescripts CEO Tom Skelton and again with Verma later that day.
Monday, 4 p.m. in the Valencia Ballroom
2019 Novel Coronavirus: Global Health IT Preparedness and Response
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects incremental use of telehealth to increase as consumers look for ways to diagnose and treat themselves and their loved ones at home.
However, despite the network, few health IT systems or electronic data and exchange capabilities have been used to detect and treat COVID-19, HIMSS says.
At this session, Adi Gundlapalli, chief public health informatics officer of the Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services at the CDC; Jilan Liu, a physician and CEO of HIMSS Greater China; and Paul Jarris, chief medical adviser of nonprofit research center MITRE Corporation, will dive into how health IT can be mobilized to combat public health crises.
Thursday, 2:30 p.m. in room W311E
Striving Toward an Open Ecosystem: Expanding Interoperability Across Care Settings
As the technology and healthcare sectors eagerly await the final interoperability rules, a panel of experts will discuss the barriers to exchanging healthcare data and share success stories of data exchange in the field.
The panel, which includes Avinash Shanbhag, acting director of ONC's office of technology, will also highlight future opportunities to fill the gaps in interoperability. Ben Moscovitch, project director of health information technology at Pew Charitable Trusts will join along with Richard Thompson, the CEO of Quality Health Network, Scott Stuewe, the CEO of Direct Trust and Paul Wilder, executive director of CommonWell Health Alliance.
While many call for quick release of the interoperability rules, some industry giants — notably Epic — have criticized the efforts and attempted to block those changes, citing privacy and security concerns.
Tuesday, 4:30 p.m. at Booth 8300 in the Education Theater
Integrating Social Determinants of Health at a Large Public Health Plan
Social determinants of health has become a popular refrain in the healthcare sector over the past few years. But it's more than just some aspiration, as health systems have already funneled $2.5 billion on programs targeting these factors, according to a recent Health Affairs study.
Health systems and payers are increasingly trying to tackle the social factors that can negatively influence a patient's health, but sometimes it's unclear how payers and providers are building programs to combat the health inequities that stem from these social factors.
Executives from L.A. Care Health Plan, a publicly operated plan with more than 2.2 million members, a majority on Medicaid, will talk strategy and detail the programs they have deployed to address social determinants of health, including investments they've made in technology and useful ways to curate better data that can generate actionable information for payers.
Monday, 3 p.m. in the Rosen Centre Junior Ballroom G
Partnering with Giants of Healthcare
Providence St. Joseph Health, one of the nation's largest nonprofit health systems that now goes by Providence, will provide insight into how vendors can partner and engage with major providers. The session will also focus on how health systems can embrace machine learning tools to improve care.
Providence is no stranger to embracing technology. Over the past few years, the organization has continued to expand its reach beyond just hospitals. Last year, Providence acquired Lumedic, which uses blockchain tools for revenue cycle management, and Bluetree, an Epic consulting and strategy firm that helps providers maximize use of technology.
Also, in a nod to the importance of embracing technology and machine learning, Providence poached B.J. Moore from his post at Microsoft to serve as the health system's chief information officer. Moore will moderate the panel.
He will be joined by colleague Maryam Gholami, chief product officer at digital innovations, and another Microsoft alum.
Monday, 3:55 p.m. in the Rosen Centre Executive Ballroom H