When I first heard about the opportunity to attend the 2015 HIMSS conference in Chicago as a HIStalking patient advocate on Regina Holliday’s blog, I knew I had to apply even if I didn’t earn one of the coveted scholarships. I wanted to be a part of the incredible opportunity that invited patients to be a part of the largest health IT conference of the year. I was thrilled when I found out that I was going to be one of five patient advocates selected by Regina and the HIStalk team.
"LA Lupus Lady" in The Windy City of Chicago at HIMSS15.
After weeks of planning and preparations, taking a trip when you manage a chronic illness is more than packing your suitcase — it involves strategy and planning for all contingencies. Traveling to Chicago, checking in to the hotel, and adjusting to Chicago time is for most people the extent of travel stress. For me, the seemingly endless walk to the departure gate and retrieving my luggage was a virtual marathon, yet my adrenaline and excitement pushed me with a sense of excitement. I made it to the shuttle and arrived McCormick Place with eagerness and anticipation.
There was a small registration situation, but soon I found myself meeting Colin Hung (@Colin_Hung of #hcldr) for the first time. I love meeting my friends from social media in real life and had been looking forward to hugging Colin at HIMSS. Thankfully Colin had access to an extra HIMSS pass and shared his access with me.
Strolling the streets of Chicago was one thing but walking the aisles of booths within the exhibit hall of HIMSS was incredibly empowering. I was filled with joy and inspiration with every step. The colorful signage and well-appointed booths were on abundant display as Colin helped me wield the magnificent madness and lead the way to the HIStalk booth to check-in with Regina and the HIStalk team.
Regina Holliday and Colin Hung show off their "The Walking Gallery" jackets in the HIStalk booth at HIMSS15.
Soon I was on my own and wandered through the exhibition hall, meeting executives and representatives for the largest health IT companies as well as the next big thing and meeting the teams behind the start-ups who strive to create the next big paradigm shift in information technology. After a fabulous first day of HIMSS adventures, it was time to celebrate at the HIStalkapalooza party held at Chicago’s famous House of Blues, where I was proud to participate in judging the HIStalk "Best Dressed" and "Best Shoes" contests. In case you don’t know this about me, let me share that I love it when my passions collide, and being a patient advocate with a new Karen Kane dress on at the HIStalk HIMSS party was a real collision of my passions for health activism, fun, and fashion.
The reason attending HIMSS was such a pleasure for me is that HIMSS is a "global, cause-based, not-for-profit organization focused on better health through information technology." As a healthcare activist, I was happy to be healthy enough to attend the conference and absolutely thrilled to be able to engage and connect with the stakeholders involved with developing the next generation of healthcare devices and apps. More importantly, I was able to be seen and heard as a patient advocate.
Patient advocate "engaged" with Jan and Jack at HIMSS.
On Tuesday morning, Jan Oldenburg of the HIMSS Connected Patient Initiative shared the value and impact of engaging with patients at the Digital Health Meetup. This meetup was one of the most empowering sessions of HIMSS15. I was already teary from Jan’s passion for the community and retelling of Regina Holliday’s story "73 cents" when she asked if anyone was a member of "The Walking Gallery" and wearing their jacket. Of course, I was. I stood up and "modeled’ my jacket. Soon after, Jan mentioned that WEGO Health CEO Jack (@healthyjack) Barrette was in the crowd. I was overwhelmed by inspiration and had to talk with Jan about how I could continue my passion for the Connected Patient Initiative and community after the conference was over.
"Connected Patient" Learning Gallery exhibit at HIMSS.
Imagine the future of healthcare where patients and doctors are able to share EMRs/EHRs with immediate access and are able to create a system of Meaningful Use. (No Meaningful Use "MU" without me.) At the HIMSS conference, the future is not some far off and distant place but "the future is now."
In addition, to attending HIMSS as a patient advocate, I was interviewed for #TalkHITwithCTG. Thank you to CTG Health Solutions for being a sponsor of the HIStalking patient advocates HIMSS registration passes. CTG Health Solutions was generous and extended their extra passes to HIMSS to HIStalk and that is how the HIStalk patient advocates were able to gain admission to HIMSS. (Thank You!)
Headlining the HIMSS conference was former POTUS George W. Bush. He was surprisingly jovial and recalled his memories of days during his Presidential administration. I enjoyed his family stories of how his parents and family have taught him the value of family, trust, and love. Though attendees were told not to take pictures during his keynote presentation, as a patient advocate I was also told to be gently and openly "disruptive," so I enjoyed the challenge of sneaking pictures of 43 during the Q&A.
Former President George W. Bush giving the keynote at HIMSS15! Wowing the crowd.
Immediately after the Presidential keynote, it was time for the HIMSS Block Party, a celebration of the community and regional HIMSS chapters representatives were there to encourage a real sense of community. It was at the HIMSS Block Party where Regina and the HIMSS attendees who are members of The Walking Gallery gathered for a photo op and hugs. On my way out of the party, I luckily met the California HIMSS chapter representatives, and as luck would have it, I won the Block Party prize of California wine and treats. The HIMSS community made me smile even more (on the last day after the conference) than I thought possible.
The next day, I spent more than a few hours napping and recouping from the conference, but I forced myself to get out and explore the city. In addition, to visiting the famous Bean sculpture, I went to Tribune Plaza for a special "photo op" with my favorite football team’s helmet. Despite being in Chicago, I had to pose with the New York Jets helmet, a part of the city’s preparation for the NFL draft.
Passions collide in Chicago… #LHandSign in the New York Jets helmet in front of the Chicago Tribune. Raising Lupus Awareness in the city after HIMSS15 wrapped.
It was an honor and pleasure to join the HIMSS community. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to participate as a HIStalk patient advocate. I will never be able to show my deep gratitude and appreciation to everyone who made my journey to Chicago such a wonderful adventure. Lorre, Jennifer, and of course the entire HIStalk team, I am so grateful. How can I begin to thank Regina Holliday for creating the environment where patients are included?
I am proud to share my adventures in Chicago and hope that this post was able to give you a glimpse into my HIMSS journey. Patient advocacy is my path and I feel that my trip to Chicago was a delightful turning point in empowering me to "level up” my activism and share my enthusiasm for advocacy. In case you are wondering, yes, I am still smiling.