HIMSS18 Reflections from a TIGER Volunteer

By Rachelle Blake, PA, MHA, founder, chief executive officer, managing director and president, Omni Micro Systems and Omni Med Solutions; HIMSS TIGER volunteer

The HIMSS18 Global Conference & Exhibition was a wonderful, exciting and thrilling, if not exhausting journey. After five days spent in Las Vegas in interactive, educational and enlightening sessions, attending wonderful events and cruising the vendor booths, it was well worth it and something I will look forward to taking part in again next year. It was a flurry, but here’s a recap of my week at HIMSS18.

And We’re Off

Conference took off full scale with sessions, meetings and events from morning until night.

The room was packed with a diverse audience for the morning session that I helped lead for the EU*US eHealth Work Project. We discussed the great work HIMSS TIGER is doing and how we can continue measuring, informing, educating and advancing eHealth digital skills for interprofessional career preparation, development and progression in healthcare.

My co-presenter, Stephan Schug, MD, MPH, chief medical officer with the European Health Telematics Association and I facilitated the very dynamic Essential Conversation, which is an interactive and collaborative method for engaging participants in the presentation. Conversations emphasized the need for continued efforts around workforce development for healthcare IT – especially in areas such as digital education for global eHealth communities, aligning curriculum with real-world competencies, and ensuring healthcare professionals are not only educated in core subjects, but are digitally skilled with informatics proficiency, enabling them to progress within their fields of practice.

Afterward, I attended a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) session, where the latest information regarding Meaningful Measures on the HITECH Act were discussed. In the afternoon, we experienced the Interoperability Showcase, where we saw realistic cases of system and vendor interoperability taking place; all working in collaboration to optimize care, all benefitting the patient and providers.

In the early evening, I had the pleasure of co-hosting the HIMSS African American Special Interest Group (AA-SIG) community event with my co-chair, Iris Frye, MS, MBA, PMP, CPHIMS. The event featured three headlining panelists: Cheryl Campbell, chief executive officer of the EagleForce Warrior Foundation; Cletis Earle, vice president and chief information officer of Kaleida Health and Chair of CHIME; and Phil McCoy, chief information officer of UnitedHealth Conversations. We focused on topics like the impact that artificial intelligence (AI), analytics and machine learning have upon the patient experience in diverse communities, how we can fix the lack of diversity in IT inside our organizations, and how participants can use the success stories of our panelists to move forward in their careers.

Midweek Madness

Wednesday brought early morning networking with the HIMSS AA-SIG breakfast. It was a fantastic opportunity to bring a diverse community of health information and technology professionals from the African American and other groups together to discuss how participants can go forward to set examples of inclusivity in their lives, communities and organizations, and lead others to model and integrate diversity programs, especially in health IT organizations, workplaces and educational settings.

HIMSS AA-SIG Breakfast attendees

Wednesday was also the first International Day at HIMSS18, a full day of educational sessions and panels especially geared toward the international health IT community, and I was privileged to be one of three closing keynote speakers for the event. The sessions during the day had centered on interoperability of systems, building and supporting the infrastructure for successful implementation and adoption of eHealth on a global basis, enabling and empowering patients to take a larger role in their healthcare, and equipping interdisciplinary providers with the technology, tools and resources they need to practice healthcare in the ever-evolving world that includes features such as AI, virtual reality and genomics. These set the pace for the trio of keynote speeches, with ours focused on International Collaboration for the Advancement of eHealth: Continued Alliances for a Digitally Skilled Global Interprofessional Health Workforce.

I then headed off to the Women in Health IT Networking Reception to meet 2017’s Most Influential Women in Health IT. As one of the judges for this year’s panel, it had been my honor and privilege to participate in the selection of the four esteemed awardees. After socializing and networking with so many of the wonderful, talented and very influential women in health IT – including friends, colleagues and co-awardees I had the pleasure of sharing the award with last year – it was finally time to end another rewarding day.

Winding Down

My morning started out with the Women in Health IT Mentor Meetup, where I led a table of 10 dynamic and energetic women in various stages of their career with interests in entrepreneurship. We had an extremely valuable and productive session discussing some of the pros, cons, risk and opportunities associated with entrepreneurship, including what are the hallmarks of an entrepreneur, what are some of the specific challenges for women entrepreneurs in health IT, and when is the right time to make that first step. The conversation was so dynamic and interactive that we ran right past the hour. We just connected so much that we spontaneously formed a breakout group, which we self-named “Women in HIT Entrepreneurs Meetup”.

After wandering through the exhibition halls, I received an invitation to appear on HIMSS TV with my HIMSS AA SIG co-chair Iris Frye. It was another wonderful opportunity to tell a wide audience about our group, our mission of increasing opportunities and decreasing disparities for African Americans and other disadvantaged communities. We also took the opportunity to explain what exciting steps we are taking to move forward and to meet the challenges of working in a profession where diversity is still a barrier to success, enable health IT professionals from all backgrounds to be successful and provide educational opportunities for diverse members of the health IT community.

My next session was another Essential Conversation, co-speaking with one of our panelists from the AA-SIG Community Event, Cheryl Campbell. Our Educational Session, Building Capacity Through Diversity in Health IT Education, was also well attended, thanks to our Steering Committee, moderator Marisa Wilson, DNSc, MHSc, RN-BC, CPHIMS, FAAN, associate professor at UAB School of Nursing; and Toria Shaw, senior manager, clinical informatics with HIMSS, who all got the word out about the session. Cheryl and I were truly humbled by the inspiring comments, discussion and contributions from the participants, and I believe we all left the session with a renewed dedication to go forward and make a difference by utilizing health IT education as a mechanism for increasing diversity in our workplaces and communities.

At the end of the week, although I was tired, I was filled with optimism for my business, eagerness to take that next step in my professional journey, and hope for workforce development and diversity within the healthcare IT workplace. I cannot wait to start the whole thing over again next year in Orlando.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.