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HIMSS11 Shrinking the World Down One Size

by corasharma | March 09, 2011


Like Dilbert, I left HIMSS11 with a sense of scale that was somewhat skewed.

The first time I crossed the pedestrian bridge overlooking the vendor showroom, I was immediately struck by the vastness of it all.  The showroom itself seemed to go on and on.  Massive booths were equipped with overhead signs that spun and flashed.

I certainly did not expect to be lured into booths through hot and cold beverages, mini-golf, motorcycle raffles, gymnastics, or my favorite, the ‘booth babes’.

All in all, the showroom was a great metaphor for the market.  The most powerful brands attracted plenty of attention, with many, many small unknown vendors struggling to get noticed. Most of these small booths were being manned by one lone guy or gal, with very few visitors.  It still amazes me that these small vendors, who likely have very lean marketing budgets can justify the expense to exhibit at HIMSS amid such fierce competition for attention on the showroom floor. Shutter to think how much a qualified lead from HIMSS’11 must cost for one of these small vendors.

I especially noticed the glut of small EHR SaaS vendors (thanks to all the federal monies), all espousing the merits of their advanced technology or superior user interface.   It was a breath of fresh of air to speak with Epocrates, who was ready to admit that winning the SaaS EHR market is not just about the technology but about good old fashioned strategy – in plain terms, “what does your small SaaS vendor have access to that the incumbents don’t?”.

On the mHealth front, it was good to see practically every vendor I spoke with offering an iPad demo.  After seeing many such demos from PatientKeeper, Thomson Reuters, Allscripts, GE Healthcare, Epic, McKesson, …   and talking to folks about where their mobile strategy was going, it soon became clear to me that we are really moving towards a world where converging forces are making the distinctions between mobile and non-mobile apps increasingly irrelevant.

Take for example CPOE Apps, where the average physician might currently be willing to perform basic orders on a smartphone, more complicated orders/order sets on a tablet, and the most complicated order sets on a desktop.  As these platforms converge, physicians will demand full functionality of the CPOE system from wherever they happen to be, on whatever device they choose.  The iPad has really done away with the belief that mHealth Apps must be feature-reduced to be usable.

Some other random reflections on HIMSS11:

  • I was expecting to hear more on Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), but really the buzz was still around Meaningful Use and Stage 2/3.
  • The vendor showroom was the main focus of the event, with the educational sessions and speaker presentations being secondary.
  • Healthy food was in very short supply at this health care conference.  The number of smokers on the balcony outside was also not what I expected at a health care conference.
  • Surgeon General Regina Benjamin got off to a slow start in her speech but she soon captivated the audience.  I wished that there had been more audience members present to hear her speak.

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