HIMSS shows how policy drives industry

I saw HIMSS in 2008 as being a closed club. In 2010 HIMSS was a change leader, embracing new market entrants.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive

The 2010 HIMSS show was a perfect example of how politics, and policy, drives industry.

What can seem like absolute beliefs often turn out to be bending to the political winds.

This is good, because business must persist, will persist, no matter the underlying political dynamic. (Someone is doing business in Somalia right now.)

In visiting the HIMSS show in 2008, and again in 2010, I found the industry transformed, and reshaped, by changing political winds. Any industry's political stand is built on sand.

Back in 2008, for instance, I found an industry stuck in the 1980s, focused mainly on questions of billing, and determined to help its members keep other players out by certifying whether software had feature sets that were its members' proprietary advantages.

In 2010, by contrast, I found an industry seeking to be on the forefront of change, determined that its gear could save money, save lives, and save the American health care system.

The difference between the two years was, of course, politics. The election of Barack Obama, the $19.2 billion in stimulus money under the HITECH Act, and the creation of "meaningful use" guidelines during 2009, all caused the industry to evolve.

Where the 2008 business was dominated by a few client-server players like Cerner and McKesson, the 2010 industry was filled with SaaS players like Allscripts and AthenaHealth. Meaningful use replaced certification as the industry buzzphrase, and the show's slogan -- "change is everywhere, opportunity is here" reflectred this.

Of course it's easy to be enthusiastic about policy that improves your business prospects. The 2008 industry felt threatened alongside the economy. The 2010 industry was booming, preparing to face a labor shortage.

Not every 2010 trend was based on politics, of course. Microsoft's rise to the top of the health IT stack was based on Microsoft's corporate policy of getting inside the industry, learning its folkways, and building alliances. It was an outsider in 2008. It was an insider in 2010. This was all Microsoft's own doing.

My own attitude toward the industry underwent a notable shift as well.

I saw HIMSS in 2008 as being opposed to necessary change, a closed club. In 2010 HIMSS was a change leader, embracing new market entrants, even those using open source. A group that seemed the enemy of progress is now its friend.

But the basic lesson remains most important. Where an industry stands is always built on self-interest. Remember that next time some businessperson tells you about their industry's immutable principles.

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