Written by Andy Smith, MTM publisher

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HiMSS) event, designed to ‘transform healthcare through information and technology’ descended on Orlando, Florida, last week filling the original expo halls of the Orange County Convention Center with 1300 exhibitors and bringing 45,000 earnest healthcare technologists together to continue their vital work in support of healthcare improvement. 

There appeared to be a triple focus for the event this year, interoperability, cyber security and AI. Certainly there was considerable focus on all three in terms of words, marketing slogans and floorspace and the content of the event shown daily did sterling work in supporting those ‘focii’.

Having seen and heard so much about the impact of non-healthcare businesses on healthcare, it was perhaps no surprise to see Microsoft and Amazon on the show-floor, they may well have been there last year, plus of course IBM with a big play for Watson.

By all accounts it was a very successful and worthwhile event with the healthcare industry, and for many of those driving it from outside, relying so heavily on technology to transform the sector, the work of HiMMS is important and kudos is due to the organization.

I do not want to belabor the point, but healthcare is a people business. It is people who deliver the care and pay the price in so many ways when things go wrong, despite all the wonderful technology.

Some of the most interesting exhibitors to MTM were those dealing with workforce management, of whom there were a number providing really useful data on performance and the propensity of staff to leave or burnout, plus all the usual clocking in and off metrics. Some of these also link to LMS software to monitor training and credentialing. Certainly having all staff information in one place and being able to support staff who might be disillusioned or heading for burnout would seem to be a massive potential money saver for hospitals at a time when staff shortages are looming. One booth highlighted the expected 1.2 million RN vacancies by 2022.

When questioning exhibitors on the topic of empowering staff and looking at the pre-hire through career processes, many think that healthcare execs know fullwell the workforce challenges they face, and they see the cost. Perhaps they really do think technology will fix it, or fix some of it, or as some commented, they simply cannot see any way of doing things other than the way it has always been done.

The latter is very likely. The attitude that ‘I had to do it that way so suck it up and get on with it’ would be no surprise. Many have never had a relationship with the nursing schools they hire from and seem to accept that ‘we’ve always paid ($60-70k) for onboarding’. Of course colleges must teach the curriculum and the standards but there is no reason that they could not do it while also introducing the student to the work practices of their future employer. Hospitals providing a number of students needed each year would do much to support students, colleges and hospitals, not to mention the parents, who pay the increasingly heavy sums involved.

It should be obvious to all that ‘we‘ve always done it this way’ is no longer working. Students expect to be able to do the job, not learn on the job, and any visitor to IMSH this year would have been able to see the way ahead.

How do we, the healthcare simulation and training industry, widen the discussion and move our needle? Speaking to those with an education or training job title is not going to do it, we need to reach the decision makers and budget holders.

Do we need a proper industry association i.e. one that will represent our interests because there are many we all try to influence who are more invested in the status quo, whatever they may profess?

If we can move our needle we will also move the outcomes – the patient safety needle too, that is the beauty of working in S&T! It is ‘more than a just for profit business’ and the odd charlatan or get rich quick merchant doesn’t last long; very few even bother, there are far easier ways of making a living.

By way of comparison; 1,300 exhibitors and 45,000 attendees at HiMMS, 130 exhibitors at IMSH and 4,000 attendees.

S&T has not reached those that it needs to reach in any significant way. Seventy hospital execs attending IMSH is ……. a start; but we need a lot more ambition.