HIMSS CEO: Mobile health to become much more significant

By Neil Versel
Steve Lieber HIMSS

HIMSS CEO H. Steve Lieber

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) is wholeheartedly embracing mobile. Last week, HIMSS announced that it has taken over the annual mHealth Summit from the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. At the 2011 mHealth Summit just two months ago, the health IT advocacy group officially launched mHIMSS, a subgroup first reported by MobiHealthNews in November.

HIMSS created mHIMSS as a "separately branded" part of the organization because "we really wanted to highlight it," HIMSS CEO H. Stephen Lieber said in an interview with MobiHealthNews ahead of the 2012 HIMSS conference, which takes place in Las Vegas this week.

Mobility is not just another piece of HIMSS like standards for privacy and security, according to Lieber. "It really needs to stand out because the tools are different, the technology is different, the applications are different and you bring the consumer into the discussion much more so than you do on some other types of technologies that are much more organizational-centered," he explained.

For example, the transition to ICD-10 coding does not matter much to the public. Being handed a tablet instead of a clipboard when registering at the doctor's office does. Getting a text reminder that it's time to take medication does affect patients.

With this in mind, HIMSS12 for the first time features a dedicated mobile healthcare track of educational sessions. While this certainly is a recognition that m-health has arrived, it also signifies that the industry is still on the leading edge of the mobile tidal wave, according to Lieber.

"Mobile is certainly still one [area of health IT] that needs to be on that list of what's coming. It's here, but it's still coming," he said.

"We are just seeing the beginning of that. This is going to be something that is going to become much more significant. It will go through the typical hype-cycle curve. It's going to go way up at some point. It hasn't yet; we're still on the upward slope there," Lieber said. "Then it will drop back down and then level off."

It has been rumored that Apple will introduce the iPad 3 soon, possibly while more than 35,000 health IT people are gathered for HIMSS this week, an occurrence that will get a lot of people in health IT talking. "It will probably create some new demand. New products do that. Upgrades to existing products do that," Lieber said.

What it also will do is add to the burgeoning demand for bandwidth within healthcare facilities. Lieber acknowledged the "BYOD" phenomenon that is keeping CIOs up at night as they struggle to integrate mobile technology into their overall infrastructure.

"IT departments are just being overwhelmed with requests of 'I've got to be more mobile. I've got to be able to connect with the laboratory or images or whatever, not from sitting at my desk and looking at it, but in other places,'" Lieber noted. "That's a very reasonable request [of clinicians and other users]."

"There's a tremendous challenge. It just adds to that list of things [CIOs] are having to deal with," alongside achieving "meaningful use" of electronic health records, switching to ANSI X12 version 510 transactions and ICD-10 coding, helping their health systems transform into accountable care organizations and keeping up with other aspects of healthcare reform.

"It's new, integrating or connecting those mobile devices to applications that are resident on a network or system. You can't just give access to the network," Lieber said. "There are interfaces that have to be put into place," he added, noting that health information requires more than the usual protections.

MobiHealthNews' coverage of HIMSS12 is brought you by IQMax.