HIMSS19 Closing Thoughts: An International Perspective

by | Feb 21, 2019 | Healthcare

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Last week I joined my colleagues in Orlando, Florida at HIMSS19. HIMSS19 is the largest healthcare information and technology event in the world, and comparing this event to anything back home in the Netherlands is almost impossible. The only thing that comes close in size to the Orange County Convention Center is the entire “Jaarbeurs,” a convention center of 100,000 square meters in Utrecht.

What did I think of my first visit to HIMSS? Here’s a look.

HIMSS19 from a first-timer’s point of view

Everyone who writes about HIMSS19 always gives two suggestions: plan your sessions and wear comfortable shoes. I’ve found this advice to be very helpful, as there is a lot of walking to be done and almost too many sessions to attend. With many well-known thought leaders sharing their expertise every hour, it was a challenge for me to create my schedule. However, I made sure that I attended the ones that I knew I couldn’t miss.

The HIMSS show floor

Every new, hot, and attractive technology is displayed at the HIMSS exhibitor booths. From artificial intelligence, blockchain, 5G, GDPR, advanced and predictive analytics to interoperability and, by extension, FHIR. These are the ones that stood out to me and offer countless possibilities. However, I still wonder about their effectiveness.

Many organizations still struggle with data management and data quality. Are we trying to take five steps forward while we should be taking a step back? Without proper data management it’s unlikely you will get full value from these new technologies. But keep in mind that when you are looking at a perfect demo, your expectation is probably not reality. You may want to ask yourself: “How does the data compare to the data in my system? What if I have empty fields?” The age-old idiom “Garbage in, garbage out” remains true to this day. If you want to purchase a new technology, I would suggest a proof of concept on your own data first.


HIMSS19 has convinced me that FHIR is the new standard for healthcare data exchange. An organization making effective use of FHIR should internally be able to facilitate data access, increase the speed at which the data is made available, and reduce the cost to bandwidth. FHIR offers interoperability; however, semantic interoperability remains an issue, as it doesn’t offer a solution to data mapping with external data sources.

Notes on GDPR

A subject that caught my attention is the comparison of HIPAA to GDPR. How do they stack up? Thankfully the two are quite similar. If you are HIPAA compliant, you are on the right track to becoming GDPR compliant. The primary difference is that in terms of scope, GDPR is broader and a bit stricter. GDPR concerns itself with any personal information that is collected or processed in the EU compared to HIPAA which covers personal health information in the States. GDPR has introduced additional rights for the (EU) consumer, active consent, and the right to be forgotten.
The Dimensional Insight trade show booth at HIMSS 2019
Active consent has altered the way people use the internet. As an example, cookies need to be accepted and newsletters need to be opted into. The right to be forgotten is a major obstacle for most businesses. A consumer can ask a company to erase all data related to them, which includes backups, development environments, and any data dump used for research. Many organizations struggle with the removal of personal information on request. This is risky, as penalties for non-compliance could cost your business 4% of annual turnover or 20 million euros, whichever is more. The first hospital GDPR violation was met with a fine of €400.000. I believe that this year is going to standardize GDPR implementations and clarify the results of violations.

Dimensional Insight at HIMSS19

The Dimensional Insight booth at HIMSS was open and inviting, and oftentimes, we had multiple demos going at once. The best discussions I had often included a detailed introduction by the attendee, who they are, what they do, where their organization is, what challenges they are facing, and their approach on overcoming those challenges. Overall, I had great exchanges with attendees on the role that data management and business intelligence play in their organizations, and how we could work together to solve those challenges.

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