HIMSS 2023 Report from our President, Marilee Benson

HIMSS is back! I am not sure if it was the venue in Chicago or we just felt the effects of the larger attendance, but HIMSS 2023 felt like the “old days”.

One specific observation – It was my sense that companies sent a greater variety of “types” of attendees – not just sales and marketing teams, who dominated the past few years. It makes sense since COVID was no longer a factor for most. And – it’s what we did – bringing our VP of Engineering, Ron Wilson, for the first time. I am thrilled that we made that choice because our discussions with prospects and clients were must more meaningful.

My biggest takeaway? At HIMSS 2023 – Interoperability reached well beyond just having a dedicated showcase area. It was a hot topic everywhere. Talking to the Patient Engagement vendors – it was all about how to integrate with EMRs. Head over to the Digital Health Startups – they are thinking about interoperability earlier in their life cycle. Visiting our friends at the eHealth Exchange booth – had to work around the long lines.

It is clear to me that one of the benefits of ONC’s TEFCA / QHIN initiative has been to awaken technology vendors from their slumber as it relates to the urgent need to have a solid interoperability strategy and plan, and a recognition that they need partners to succeed in this area.

Here are my top five key interoperability themes for HIMSS 2023:

FHIR continues to gain traction:

FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) is an open standard for exchanging healthcare information electronically. At HIMSS 2023, several speakers emphasized the importance of FHIR for interoperability, and shared examples of how it’s being used in real-world applications. One notable example was the partnership between Cerner and Epic, two of the largest electronic health record (EHR) vendors in the US, who announced plans to support FHIR for data exchange between their systems. We still have a long way to go – but perhaps this year we’ll see FHIR-based exchange move beyond small pilots. However, expect to live in a world for quite a while where FHIR has to co-exist with all the other healthcare standards. 

Blockchain is still a topic:

Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that allows for secure and transparent data exchange. At HIMSS 2023, several speakers discussed the potential of blockchain for interoperability, particularly for sharing sensitive patient data such as genomic information. However, some experts cautioned that the technology is still in its early stages and more research is needed to ensure its scalability and reliability. Yes – that is what you say every year.

APIs are key to unlocking data:

APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are software interfaces that allow different systems to communicate with each other. At HIMSS 2023, several speakers emphasized the importance of APIs for interoperability, and shared examples of how they’re being used in healthcare. One notable example was the partnership between Apple and several health systems, who announced plans to use APIs to allow patients to access their health records on their iPhones. Not sure this is really big news given TEFCA’s emphasis on Individual Patient Access via FHIR, but progress?

Patient consent and privacy remain critical issues:

While interoperability holds great promise for improving healthcare outcomes, it also raises important ethical and legal questions around patient consent and privacy. At HIMSS 2023, several sessions focused on these issues and emphasized the need for clear and transparent policies to protect patient rights. I believe Individual Patient Access is finally going to scale rapidly toward the end of this year. This is going to highlight the need to be sure patients understand the fine print of Patient App terms and conditions!

National Networks like eHealth Exchange and Carequality are Growing:

I was not kidding when I observed that the line was long at the eHealth Exchange booth. There was much more awareness of the potential for national network-based data exchange, and everybody wanted to know more about it, NOW. I am confident that TEFCA is driving this move to finally participate in a national network as a way of preparing for future QHIN participation. I am thankful Zen Healthcare IT has well positioned ourselves to be a partner for efficient, effective nationwide data exchange.

Final Thoughts:

Moving ahead, it’s important to remember that Healthcare Data Exchange moves at the speed of trust. Many speakers at HIMSS 2023 emphasized the importance of collaboration and partnership in achieving interoperability. This includes collaboration between different healthcare organizations, technology vendors, and policymakers. Several initiatives were announced at the conference to encourage greater collaboration, including the launch of the Interoperability Institute, a non-profit organization focused on advancing interoperability in healthcare.

HIMSS Global Health Conference 2023 highlighted the importance of interoperability in healthcare and showcased innovative solutions and technologies to improve data sharing and patient care. As the healthcare industry continues to evolve and embrace digital transformation, interoperability will play a crucial role in achieving better outcomes and improving the overall patient experience. We look forward to seeing how these key insights and news from the conference will shape the future of healthcare interoperability.



Zen Healthcare IT Case Study


Download Full Case Study PDF


Enter your name and email to instantly access the case study.