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HIMSS Preview: Big Show; Big Ideas—Big News?

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, February 26, 2013

Other breakout sessions are equally deserving of your time. Try to arrive by Saturday if you can, to catch some of the pre-conference sessions on Sunday.

Big News or Big Snooze?
As for breaking news, the big buzz is all about a possible interoperability announcement to be made by EHR system competitors Cerner and McKesson. They'll be holding a joint press conference at HIMSS, so we'll have to wait and see. 

After last year's HIMSS—where I struggled to find acknowledgement at any major EHR vendor's booth that other EHRs existed—this could either be the start of something big, or it could be little more than a  marketing ploy.

Who Supports Direct Project?
I doubt such developments will cause any provider to switch from one EHR to another. I will spend far more time at HIMSS asking IT vendors and service providers about their specific support for the Direct Project, which "specifies a simple, secure, scalable, standards-based way for participants to send authenticated, encrypted health information directly to known, trusted recipients over the Internet."

I get mixed signals from the industry. Are they supporting Direct, or not? And how and when will patients be able to access data via Direct? I hear they must have a special email address and must go through patient Web portals as they do now. What patients want to hear is that they can also use popular email programs such as Gmail or Outlook to get at their Direct-authenticated messages. I will look around HIMSS and report back on what I find.

Half the fun of HIMSS is asking the tough questions of vendors and providers alike. For instance, a big wrinkle in the transition to EHRs is that patients' psychiatric histories are now being incorporated into EHRs that all care providers in a system can access.

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