While at HIMSS last week I was honored to spend some quality time with Dr. Barry Chaikin (right), the outgoing chair of HIMSS and the head of Docsnetwork.
Dr. Chaikin's own keynote emphasized the role of technology over policy in transforming health care. "We cannot rely on incentive programs or executive orders. We must create demand," he said.
A great example of how it can do this is the checklist. Chaikin called the success of Dr. Peter Pronovost's checklist an indictment of the current state of health IT, and said systems are capable of delivering even more value to the bedside.
Later, in a quiet interview room, he expanded on this theme of transformation with me.
"Healthcare IT in an intelligent way is a great way to do decision support," he said.
He said medical students will lead the revolution. "Medical students are choosing where to practice based on the tools available, even the vendors," he said.
"When I was doing training I walked with the Washington Manual in my pocket. Now they have a PDA with the manual and everything else on it. "
So why not embed tools like this in the workflow and the clinical process, he suggested. "If everyone is using best practices we'll save grandma and give her the types of care she wants," he said.
"The patient should decide how they're treated. They will take care of themselves given the right information."
Compliance, like best practices, can be improved through technology, he insisted, by creating a demand for, among other things, better food. "If you don't have access to fresh fruit and vegetables and we've eliminated exercise classes in the school, expenditures on obesity are going to rise.
"But let's start by getting people data at the point where they wish to change."
Dr. Chaikin's speech, and my interview, were the best markers I could find last year about how HIMSS itself has transformed in the last two years. From a defensive crouch of trying to get clients paid, the industry has switched to an offensive posture of working to transform medical practice.