HIMSS — Second Year Thoughts

Having just returned from my second Himss conference, the massive HIT conference held this year in Las Vegas, I have a few thoughts on what I learned and felt. The weather was wonderful and the Sand’s participatory Healthcareconference center was a brisk 15 minute walk every morning from my hotel. With 45000+ individuals amassed in one space, walking helped to prepare for the day. Since it was outside the “strip” with few people having the same idea, it was a quiet experience. Walking into the conference center was time to brace for the onslaught of humanity where the #Himssanity hashtag makes all kinds of sense.
My personal theme for this year’s conference was Relationships. Since following healthcare thought leaders in the e-patient and HIT space is my main purpose for Twitter, it is wonderful to go to the Himss and see IRL (in real life) so many thoughtful individuals who are working to make healthcare safer and more efficient for patients and physicians. It began with a reunion with Jan Oldenburg @janoldenburg the night before the conference where we talked about her new book, a followup to ENGAGE!, that will come out sometime later in the spring. Here’s a scattering of thoughts regarding other people I spoke to: Charles Webster (@wareFLO) was all about workflow. Having been through three GoLives in rapid succession right before the conference, improved workflows sure hits close to home. After years of seeing Mandi Bishop @MandiBPro on line,  she proved to be incredibly energizing with a vibrant personality that infused anyone near her with a “can do” sort of feeling. Zubin Damania, better known as @zdoggmd performed his EHR State of Mind at the AthenaHealth Cloud party Wednesday night. That was fun but I’m still a little confused about night clubs with full-size pools and little “mini-pools” around the periphery. Water, darkness and alcohol seem like a dangerous combination.
Himss has developed a strong social media presence and the official Social Media Ambassadors, as well as unofficial ones, kept attendees in the loop by live tweeting educational sessions and having social media tweet chats that kept conversations going outside the conference in the twitter sphere.
Pink socks were everywhere and Nick Adkins (@nickreeldx) seemed amazed by how they’ve caught on Fashion flawsince he began handing them out at last year’s Himss. We chatted about how people need a symbol to push the need for healthcare innovation forward and his socks are providing that. Another personality driving patient engagement and innovative care could be found in the Xerox booth where Regina Holliday painted daily. Her jackets were seen sprinkled throughout the conference. It was a thrill to be stopped by someone who wanted an explanation for the artwork on my back.
It’s reassuring to see so many talented individuals being heard at Himss regarding patient empowerment. Just in the two years I’ve attended Himss the voices are becoming a force to be reckoned with—the vendors are listening.
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Gimme My Patient’s Damn Data

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) was created in 1996 to protect patients’ personal health information (PHI) in addition to other things. One of its most frequently misunderstood sections involves the release of medical information. Although it specifically allows for treating physicians  to access their patient’s health information in order to provide continuity of care without needing a patient to sign a release form, it is not unusual for this to be a problem. My office has had difficulty receiving necessary records from specialty offices and hospitals. Recently one of my patients was seen in a Kroger Little Clinic where she was treated for a urinary tract infection. Since her symptoms persisted, I needed the urinalysis from the clinic in order to determine future therapy. You’d of thought I was asking for gold from Fort Knox. In my long association with HIPAA I have found it mostly intoned by medical office individuals who have been poorly trained by the entities that employ them. Kroger has not appropriately educated their staff as to the ins and outs of a complicated law, thereby bringing about the following exchange on Twitter: Screenshot 2015-03-15 09.20.48

Ultimately I was able to get the UA results, begrudgingly, from an NP who I know called me a bad word as soon as she got off the phone. She was right. By the end of the day, I didn’t care what she thought of me. Just give me my patient’s damn data!

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The Lurking Physician

In addition to reading a number of medical bloggers, I “lurk” on twitter chats and try to watch twitter updates from the 88 people I am currently following. The majority of the people I follow are doctors who are interested in how social media can help patients, plus a few “learning” entities like Brainscape just to improve my language studying skills (which I highly recommend). I am just a neophyte to Social Media but am excited by its potential for my patients.


Suddenly the ability to followup with patients directly without a medical assistant playing messenger in between seems more attainable. Communications would be cleaner and both physicians and patients would be better served. Right now I do this on a small scale by using email but this is fraught with difficulty. Patients send me their information and sometimes they cannot open my email response because it is encrypted (per HIPPA requirements). Other times their emails are caught by my spam filter and I never see them! As I’ve written about in previous posts, there are recommendations by august bodies like the AMA on how to use email professionally but frankly, they are both out-of-date and a little out-of-touch with their recommendations. However, having said that, HIPPA fines are substantive so no one wants to be caught in the wrong while communicating with patients.

In the meantime, patients are becoming more web and social media savvy. It is exciting to have a patient come in who has been on the Mayo clinic website and is asking about what preventive steps they should be taking instead of me initiating the discussion. It makes me feel like a partner in their care instead of a mother giving advice. I am a mother and I enjoy that role. Nurturing is part of healthcare but when I feel more like the disciplinarian then an advisor, neither I nor the patient are likely to benefit.

The “early adopter” physicians and e-patients on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, among others, are working hard to improve the lines of communication so that patient care is better. It’s an exciting time to be involved and I am looking forward to learning more and sharing a lot.

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