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HIMSS 2024 highlights: AI, cybersecurity, and a new showrunner

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The healthcare technology conference was dominated by talks about AI in healthcare and ransomware attacks. It was the first conference since Informa Markets began managing the event.

If someone wasn’t convinced that artificial intelligence is expected to change healthcare, the HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition should have erased any lingering skepticism.

Image: Ron Southwick, Chief Healthcare Executive

More than 30,000 attended the 2024 HIMSS Conference in Orlando, Florida.

As expected, AI proved to be the dominant topic at the 2024 HIMSS conference in Orlando. Cybersecurity seemed to be the second most commonly discussed topic, no doubt fueled by the Change Healthcare cyberattack.

More than 30,000 healthcare leaders attended the 2024 HIMSS conference in Orlando, and more than 1,000 companies were exhibiting at the event.

Here’s a quick rundown of a memorable event in the Sunshine State.

AI revolution

Healthcare leaders from across the industry talked about AI’s potential to improve patient care, including predicting diseases at earlier stages and identifying patients who need earlier screenings.

Robert Garrett, CEO of Hackensack Meridian, talked about AI’s promise during a keynote address at the conference. “AI has the potential to build healthier communities, on a scale and pace that were previously unimaginable,” Garrett said.

However, even the most enthusiastic projections about AI were balanced with the need to ensure that health equity is a guiding principle in advances in technology. Garrett and other leaders pointed out that AI needs accurate data to even be useful, much less transformative.

At the conference, Microsoft and more than a dozen large health systems, including Advocate Health, Cleveland Clinic, and Johns Hopkins, announced the formation of the Trustworthy & Responsible AI Network, also dubbed TRAIN.

Even with lofty visions of AI, healthcare leaders said the more immediate benefits will involve business applications, including solutions to file claims, summarize patient encounters, and other administrative functions.

Experts offered one recurring theme for health organizations looking to do more with AI. Before simply adopting a tool that looks cool, healthcare leaders should think about the problems they are trying to solve.

Image: Ron Southwick, Chief Healthcare Executive

The HIMSS Conference was dominated by conversations about AI and cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity

Over the past few years, the HIMSS Conference has featured plenty of discussion about cybersecurity. But the discussions gained more gravity and urgency after the Change Healthcare attack, which has affected the finances of hospitals and physicians nationwide.

Several cybersecurity experts talked about the growing sophistication of ransomware groups, and it’s clear that even large organizations are vulnerable to attacks.

Experts stressed the importance of health systems and hospitals taking a fresh look at their own systems, as well as the security posture of their vendors.

They also pointed out one uncomfortable truth: hospitals must realize that cybersecurity defenses that are effective today may not be successful tomorrow.

Clinician burnout

Healthcare leaders are clearly worried about the well-being of their doctors and nurses, with good reason. One in five healthcare workers left their jobs within a 12-month span, according to a recent report from Press Ganey.

Ann Cappellari, chief medical information officer of SSM Health, led a session about the need to reduce administrative demands on clinicians. Even nurses spend almost half of their time on administrative chores, she noted.

“That's laughably ridiculous,” she said.

The need for speed

Hal Wolf, president and CEO of HIMSS, talked about the need to accelerate the adoption of digital health to improve access and outcomes. There’s already a shortage of clinicians, and it’s only going to grow in the not-too-distant future.

“Our populations are going to continue to age and there's no question that we have staff shortages,” Wolf said.

Image: Ron Southwick, Chief Healthcare Executive

There were some musical performances on the first morning of the HIMSS Conference.

The new show manager

Last year, HIMSS reached a deal with Informa Markets to manage the conference and exhibition. HIMSS continues to oversee the development of the content and programming.

Patrick Martell, CEO of Informa Markets, addressed the attendees briefly Tuesday morning before the keynote address.

“We have great confidence that our partnership will drive the growth and evolution of this annual event to even greater heights,” Martell said.

But the conference did have some new features, including more digital signs and fewer printed signs directing attendees around the sprawling Orange County Convention Center. It’s also a nod toward being a bit more environmentally responsible.

And there were even a couple of musical performances kicking off the conference, with an enthusiastic group of singers - and dancers - looking to perk up the audience. “You belong with HIMSS,” they sang, echoing the tune of Taylor Swift’s hit, “You Belong With Me.”

Wolf said HIMSS leaders were talking with Informa Markets even before the conference ended about what worked well, what could be improved, and things to think about next year.

Next year, there will be a new look to the Venture Connect, a portion of the exhibition that connects entrepreneurs, investors, providers and policymakers.

There will also be a different location for the conference next year. The 2025 HIMSS Conference will be held in Las Vegas.

Two-minute drill

In case you missed it, here’s a two-minute video rundown of the 2024 HIMSS conference.


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Image: Ron Southwick, Chief Healthcare Executive
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