Why I Attend the HIMSS Annual Conference

by Michael Zaroukian, MD, PhD, MACP, FHIMSS, board chair, HIMSS North America

Watch the video below to see – and hear – why the brightest minds in health and IT will be at HIMSS17:

As I prepare for another exciting and informative HIMSS Annual Conference and my role as HIMSS North America Board Chair, I am pleased to share some stories about what makes the conference so special to me.

The theme of HIMSS17 says it perfectly: “Where the Brightest Minds in Health and IT Meet.”   Here are just a few of the many examples I could share from previous HIMSS Annual Conferences and what I am looking forward to at HIMSS17.

Practical Guidance for Achieving Measurable Results

After accepting my first EMR implementation leadership assignment, I became a HIMSS member and made plans to attend the 2003 HIMSS Conference & Exhibition.  I was correctly advised that attending the conference would accelerate my learning and facilitate networking with a vast array of health and IT professionals willing to share their expertise and experiences.

At the very first educational session I attended, two health IT luminaries taught me how to perform an EMR return-on-investment (ROI) analysis. I used their guidance to complete a ROI analysis in my own clinic and publishing the results, including critical success factors and failure paths.  The annual financial ROI in my own clinic exceeded $63,000 per physician, with a payback period of 18.5 months and improved physician satisfaction compared to the paper charts that the EMR replaced.    

After transitioning to my current CMIO role, I used more lessons learned while attending HIMSS Annual Conference, such as the HIMSS Analytics Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model (EMRAM) SM and the HIMSS Value Suite STEPSTM framework to drive use of health IT to achieve value. This helped my organization achieve HIMSS EMRAM Stage 7 status in 2014, leveraging people, process and information technology to improve quality and achieve multimillion dollar savings (e.g., Sparrow Health System Stage 7 Case Study).

Passionate and Collaborate Communities of Subject Matter Experts with a Shared Mission

Like many of you, my educational and networking needs have evolved as my professional and organizational health IT roles have changed, technology has advanced, and healthcare payment is changing to reward value over volume.  No matter which “hat” I have worn over the years – frontline EMR physician user, enterprise EMR implementation leader, C-suite executive (VP-CMIO), national policy advisor, professional society health IT leader – I have always found a HIMSS community that has welcomed me, helped me learn, and helped me make wiser decisions.  Each community is effective, because it combines highly talented and engaged group of HIMSS member volunteers with expert HIMSS support staff focusing on advancing the HIMSS vision of “better health through information technology.”     

Getting Together to See and Solve Challenging Issues

The first HIMSS Annual Conference I attended was fortuitously timed, following closely on the heels of the acquisition of the legacy revenue cycle solution my practice used by the commercial EMR vendor whose system we had just implemented.  On the HIMSS exhibit floor, the vendor showcased how it planned to integrate the assets of the acquired company, potentially requiring a change in our ambulatory EMR solution. As national user group chair, I was able to take advantage of the physical presence of colleagues at the Annual Conference to quickly gather and give immediate, direct, constructive, face-to-face feedback to vendor executives to help shape the plan going forward.

At the HIMSS Annual Conference I attended in 2005, I was asked to give a tour of the HIMSS Interoperability ShowcaseTM to the first ONC coordinator, Dr. David Brailer.  Of course, I was delighted to do so, demonstrating the incredible early work of health IT developers to a national policy leader, as well as highlighting current capabilities, future potential and existing barriers to achieving a nationwide interoperable health IT system.   

Giving Back and Getting Even More

I became a HIMSS volunteer to try to give back to HIMSS, which has been so helpful to me.  Simply by staying engaged and willing to help, I have had the good fortune to be invited to participate in many HIMSS educational programs, task forces, committees, communities, stakeholder meetings and other opportunities to serve, learn and grow.

No matter how much I give to support HIMSS in our shared mission to improve health with IT, my organization and I consistently get back even more.  This synergy is one of the irresistible draws of HIMSS for me.

It also provides a compelling business case for other executives to encourage their operational and IT leaders to participate in key HIMSS activities and events.  

What I am looking forward to at HIMSS17

As HIMSS North America Board Chair, I am naturally honored and excited to welcome, congratulate, appreciate and celebrate the accomplishments of the tens of thousands of health and IT professionals who will gather to share experiences, learn new skills, and prepare for the next chapter in improving health with IT.  I expect all will be interested in learning how the new administration and Congress will shape healthcare delivery, payment and use of health IT to support our shared goals. 

As a participant, I’m always eager to see what surprises and delights me, whether it is an outstanding presentation I can use to improve care in my community, new colleagues that become part of my collaborative network, or new and innovative technologies on the exhibit floor that can add value, including exemplars for:

I hope to see and meet as many of you as possible at HIMSS17 in Orlando Feb.19-23, whether at a preconference symposium or workshop, a keynote presentation, an educational session, on the exhibit floor or at the awards gala.  Thanks for all you do!

Michael Zaroukian, MD, PhD, MACP, FHIMSS, is Vice President & CMIO, Sparrow Health System.


in health and IT meet.