Many of us have been working to get digital health technology for patients on HIMSS’ radar for nearly a generation. For me, the first step was the first “patient portal” event we held in the Northern California HIMSS chapter in 2005. The agenda that day featured Dr. Kate Christensen and Matthew Holt. They are still among the growing cadre of people working to turn dream into reality: patients at the center of their own care, supported both by personal health technologies and by physicians, nurses, and administrators.
The path has not been straight or always clear from that point to this. A low point was the moment in 2010-2011, in a year of recession and tight budgets, when HIMSS discontinued the national PHR Committee in order to focus on Meaningful Use stage 1 as a key direction for the industry. For many years, National HIMSS did not have a patient engagement track and the few sessions that offered insights on digital technologies for patients often competed with one another. Still, there were bright spots—I remember hearing Jane Sarasohn-Kahn speak for the first time on a transformative panel at National HIMSS, and several sessions on medical banking and PHR outcomes were packed. Much of the continued emphasis on patients and patient engagement at National HIMSS is due to the tireless work of Mary Griskewicz, who has kept all of us enthusiastic and on track. My local NoCAL chapter was supportive of my efforts to create programs about PHRs, mobile technologies, and portals on an annual or semi-annual basis.
Still, it has been a slow process to bring patient-facing technologies into the mainstream of HIMSS efforts. National HIMSS created the eConnecting with Consumers Committee in 2011, and rebranded it to the Connected Patient Committee for 2014. For the first time in 2013, the Committee offered a set of sessions at National HIMSS specifically designed to ensure that patient engagement topics were addressed and received focus. Along with a tweet chat, the publication of Engage! Transforming Healthcare Through Digital Patient Engagement, and a flash mob clapping “if you believe in patient engagement,” last year marked significant gains in the visibility of patient engagement topics at National HIMSS.
But HIMSS 2014 was the year that Patient Engagement finally reached mainstream status at HIMSS, both in the education track and on the show floor. On Sunday, the Connected Patient Committee sponsored a full-day symposium on all aspects of patient engagement. HIMSS invested in a beautiful booth on the floor, the Connected Patient Gallery, with corporate sponsors and a series of illustrious speakers and interactions. Once again, the Connected Patient Committee set aside a morning for a series of presentations that focused on key areas of patient engagement and experience. There was a full track focused on patient engagement that included a morning of wonderful presentations sponsored by the Connected Patient Committee. The morning started with Jane Saraohn-Kahn, Dr Danny Sands, and Dr Pete Hudson, “Putting the P ahead of “HIT”.—it’s Personal.” That was followed by “There’s a Patient on the Care Team: Using Personal Health IT to Ensure the Patient is Included in Healthcare Decision Making” with Laura Adams and Susan VonNessen-Scanlin. Finally, Danny van Leeuen and Mary Anne Sterling, accompanied by Regina Holliday and Gail Embt, discussed the Caregiver’s perspective in “Supporting the Family Caregiver on the Front Lines through HIT” (a first, for national HIMSS). Along the way, Engage! Transforming Healthcare Through Digital Patient Engagement received HIMSS’ “2013 Book of the Year” award at a star-studded gala. Vendors were also on board: you couldn’t walk the show floor without seeing signs everywhere for “engaged,” “connected” and “mobile” patients and technologies, with a mixture of hype and innovation.
Although we still have a long way to go in transforming healthcare into the digitally-supported, patient-centered environment we can envision, it is clear that the work is well-underway and transformation has begun.