I’m not going to the HIMSS conference this year. Actually, I haven’t been to HIMSS in a few years. Before you think I am throwing one of industry staples out, let me explain.
We are sending someone and we are happy HIMSS members, but over the last few years, I have had to completely rethink the conferences I choose to attend. This choice was not entirely budget driven, although it is a strong consideration. My choice primarily deals with what my organization is asking me to accomplish and the value I need to receive to fulfill the time away from the office. Gone are the days where the primary driver for the CIO was to just provide stable hardware and software so the bills could get out the door or the doctors could use CPOE. Instead, the ravenous business environment in healthcare is driving new business models, radical shifts in markets, and critical business thinking.
So what do I look for in a conference? My primary interest relates to the content and whether it links to what the business cares about. While “big data” and clinical business intelligence are important and somewhat intriguing, during board meetings and executive leadership discussions, those are tools in the toolbox that should be leveraged to bring solutions to business problems or opportunities.
For example, when discussing tools at home, I don’t talk to my family about the great new ratcheting screwdriver that is out and can save me hours on the next home repair project. Instead we talk about the home repair project itself — why we are moving forward with it, how much it will cost, and what it will return. Taking a step back from our industry and listening to all the buzz flowing out of it, we are not too far away from the As Seen On TV advertising. And at times, it is just as annoying.
Instead, I want to know what my hospital leadership is worried about this year; what they are thinking about in the next three years. I want attend the same conference they are where they discuss challenging times of inpatient volumes and creation of value. I want to understand what the VP of HR is thinking regarding the uneasy times of nurse staffing and cost control, and along with new benefits challenges. I want to hear directly what the CFO is facing as in relation to new revenue cycle opportunities within their industry meetings. I also want to learn about other industry issues that are strikingly similar to ours. I want to understand the way leaders have completely rethought business challenges outside of healthcare.
While you can (sometimes) hear about these topics at our traditional meetings, what I miss is the interaction and questions outside of the field of view of the traditional CIO perspective. I will continue to attend CHIME, as it collects the best healthcare CIO leaders together in a very comfortable environment to share raw problems directly related to my industry, but we should all look beyond our comfort zone.
Ask your leadership peers where they are going and consider attending different gatherings, like the ACHE Congress and other non-technology-centric conferences to listen to a radically different perspective. Reach out to your local bank leadership or University peers to see what conferences they are attending and what they are hearing as it relates to challenges in security, or what they face as it relates to the insurance or education market and affordable care act implementation.
Get new perspective, which will add value back into what you are trying to build and maintain. Without that different perspective, you might just start talking like Ron Popeil.