Clinical engineers (CEs) and technology managers who want to better understand the convergence of medical technology with information technology (IT), establish stronger interfaces with their IT counterparts, and be prepared for the challenges of interoperability, can hone their IT knowledge next month in New Orleans. The Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS) will hold its annual meeting from February 25 to March 1, 2007, and will offer many opportunities to get up close and personal with the IT world. More than 25,000 IT professionals, vendors, clinicians, and CEs will converge on the Ernest Morial Convention Center to network, learn, and collaborate.

HIMSS is a leader in health care IT and has taken an active interest in working with the clinical engineering community at all levels. Both the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) and the American College of Clinical Engineering (ACCE) are cosponsors of the HIMSS meeting. For the last 3 years, the ACCE and the HIMSS have cosponsored a clinical engineering breakfast at the HIMSS meeting where different sectors of the IT community have networked with the CEs and BMETs in attendance.

This year, in response to increased participation, a special interest group (SIG) on the clinical engineering/IT convergence was formed as a formal community within HIMSS. Its mission is to foster communication and develop relationships between CEs and IT professionals for the improvement of high technology management, patient safety, and operational effectiveness in health care. The SIG, which has equal membership from clinical engineering and IT, looks to promote working partnerships between CEs and IT professionals and to serve as a clearinghouse of success stories of collaborations between clinical engineering and IT. An initial list serve has been in place since September, and the SIG will have its first face-to-face meeting in New Orleans. 

The leadership of HIMSS has long recognized the importance of clinical engineering as a community within HIMSS, and it has been working with the clinical engineering community since 2001 to frame the discussion and relationship between the professions. HIMSS President Stephen Lieber believes that, “There is a clear trend in health care as clinical engineering and information technology converge in the effort to improve the quality of care through the use of technology. Only through the efforts of both the clinical engineer and the IT professional will health care be able to realize the full potential and value of clinical data integration. HIMSS is committed to supporting the development of initiatives which achieve this end.”

HIMSS has taken this philosophy into practice through the inclusion of clinical engineering topics in its regular education program. Last year, a clinical engineering and IT leadership forum was held as a premeeting conference for a half day. The response from the sold-out meeting’s attendees was overwhelmingly in favor of lengthening and enlarging the program. For 2007, it has been reformatted to a full symposium featuring a keynote presentation by Larry Kessler, ScD, director, Office of Science and Technology, at the US Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. The theme of the symposium, “Achieving Success Through Collaboration,” will explore clinical engineering’s leadership role and relationships in a variety of projects and operations, which involve teams of physicians, nurses, hospital IT professionals, and vendors.

Several presentations in the regular educational tracks will address clinical engineering issues, such as wireless, interoperability, telemedicine, and patient safety. Clinical engineering presenters in the regular educational tracks will include Marvin Shepherd of Devteq Consulting, Walnut Creek, Calif; Jeffrey Kabachinshi of GE Healthcare, Waukesha, Mich; and a “From The Top” address by Julian Goldman, MD, of Partners Healthcare, Boston.

The ACCE will hold an open reception and general membership meeting in conjunction with the HIMSS meeting on February 24, and both the ACCE and the AAMI will have cosponsor booths in the convention center. The HIMSS technical exhibition will house more than 900 exhibitors covering every aspect of health care IT, including an increasing number of clinical equipment manufacturers. A highlight of the exhibition is the Interoperability Showcase, where the latest advances in automated connectivity of devices and systems will be demonstrated by the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) initiative.

Since 1998, the HIMSS, along with the Radiological Society of North America, has cosponsored the IHE as a forum for the development of standards-based, vendor independent interoperability in health care technology. It was joined by the American College of Cardiology in 2005 as a major sponsor. Starting with the automation of workflows in radiology, IHE today has domains in IT, cardiology, patient care coordination, laboratory, eye care, and patient care devices (PCD). The PCD domain is cosponsored by the ACCE and the HIMSS, and it will have its first public demonstration in New Orleans.

Attendees at the Interoperability Showcase are able to create their own electronic health record and then access it across multiple health settings within the showcase as well as across the exhibit floor. Interoperability will be demonstrated through interactive demonstrations, including cardiology and trauma scenarios. The PCD will demonstrate data uptake and display in both the operating room and the intensive care unit. Educational sessions will also be provided on the showcase floor.

The Interoperability Showcase is not a just a demonstration of capabilities, or of future possibilities. In order to participate, vendors must submit their equipment and systems to a rigorous testing process known as a Connectathon. Each vendor must demonstrate interoperability with at least three other vendors in order to be deemed IHE compliant. The process is one that qualifies the vendors’ commitment as well as their devices. The more than 50 vendors that will participate in the showcase are committed to bringing interoperable devices to market. Devices demonstrated at past HIMSS meetings are already in the marketplace. 

The HIMSS meeting and exhibition provides a rich environment for the CE to become immersed in the IT world. As convergence continues to gather speed, it becomes increasingly important that CEs and technology managers become familiar with and be able to work with their counterparts in IT. In that connection, the HIMSS meeting and exposition becomes a “must-see” show. For more information, visit the HIMSS Web site at www.himss.org.

Raymond Peter Zambuto, CCE, FASHE, SHIMSS, is president and CEO, Technology in Medicine Inc, Holliston, Mass. For more information, contact us at [email protected]

Read previous Tech Talk articles in past issues at www.24x7mag.com