Interoperability: A HIMSS Story

HIMSS interoperability storyHIMSS is one of the most exciting events on the health IT calendar. An annual parade of the pomp and circumstance, the mighty and the meek; the somewhat great equalizer for everyone in attendance (perhaps not measured by booth size but by mere participation).

HIMSS is the place to be seen as it holds a certain stature, like being invited to the hottest party in town or attending an industry’s red-carpet event. As such, there’s a level of elitism for those that make the journey as all that enter the grounds can claim that they’ve reached a certain stature in their careers.

There are the parties and toasts, educational and informational, evangelists and doomsdayers walking the same halls, shaking the same hands, seeking the same solutions and securing similar aspirations. As if a city of its own, HIMSS thrives upon its own economies and its communities, its own crooks and its own saints; it is the world in which we live, and great things tend to happen here, despite the few inevitable hiccups that happen along the way.

From the sessions to the show floor, the whole thing is a carnival. Like in the real world, everyone in attendance has their tribe and the land in which they’ve staked is the land in which they occupy.

I’ve done my time in the booth; standing at the edges of the territorial carpet, scanning the horizon, taking in the tourists and judging the competition for their various faults — from the poorly dressed sales folks to the vendors vying for supremacy from the land of the largest booth.

Sometimes, we cross the isle, make nice and say hello to a neighboring tribe. Others times we invade, stealing chachkis, and water and the occasional free massage.

We smile and make nice, and for a minute we’re friends, but then we remember that we come from the other side of the isle so we slither back to our tents and to our carnival barker duties. After all, it’s the show they love — the folks walking by – who window shop their way through the maze of capitalists.

We’re their entertainment, in our pressed shirts, standing in our corner smiling. We make passersby pass the time between sessions, but we understand our role. Even though we’re there to show some product and educate some minds, it’s a time for us all to come together and to celebrate the best that is healthcare, its technology and all its related parts.

For a few short days, we’re united and (somewhat) sincere with each other. Like a high school graduation party where everyone can come together even after years of disagreement or opposing views and think grand things about the future even though we know the roads we’ll travel will take us down very different paths.

And when it’s all over and life settles down, after the tent cities are razed and we’re back in our offices, we’ll remember the time we had where we came together and we’ll long for those time once again.

“There’s always next year,” some of us will say to ourselves, but we know it will never last forever.

Despite the good times we had round the hotel bar, in the ballroom or conference center board room, we realize that even the best of times must end and, ultimately, we pretend to know “it” (read: interoperability) could never work in the “real” world so we settle for and embrace the short-term relationships we’ve made knowing “we’re just not right for each other.”

Truth is, in the end, when the show is over, we’ll simply return to our silos and shut the door. Lights out, and once again we’ll be alone.

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