...which is strongly suggestive, that the VA's problem with Cerner implementation? It's coming a lot more from the VA, than…
I survived my trip to the ATA conference, but I can’t say I’m glad to be home. Leaving beautiful the warm and sunny environment of San Antonio for the rainy chill at home was definitely an adjustment. I’m glad I left my heavier coat in the car so I would have it when I got back.
Overall, it was an interesting conference, in that I met some great people and learned about some novel use cases for telehealth. From a logistics standpoint, though, I heard a fair amount of grumbling from attendees and exhibitors alike. The themes:
- Meal service hours were tightly controlled. Although beverages were laid out 25 minutes before lunch was to be served, the catering staff literally had guards in place blocking anyone from even getting water from the lunch service tables. On the other hand, meals were served throughout the show floor, so that made it easier to pop out and get something. There was no break service upstairs where the majority of sessions were held, however.
- Breakout rooms weren’t ideally sized for the attendees. Some were standing room only, where others seemed like vast caverns with presenters speaking into a dark void. I don’t recall having the option of indicating interest in a session in advance, which would have helped with room sizing if that’s something the event planners are interested in for the future.
- The Saturday through Monday scheduled really seemed to mess with people’s sense of time and date. Although they enjoyed being able to focus on sessions on Sunday without dealing with work email, most people still missed three days of work with Friday and Tuesday travel, plus lost their weekend.
- Exhibitors felt the event wasn’t as well attended as they expected. Exhibit hall hours were long, running from 10:40 a.m. to 6 p.m. On opening day, they let attendees in before it opened, which ruffled some feathers since people weren’t in their booths yet. On Sunday at 5 p.m., the aisles were a ghost town, and on Monday by 4:15, attendance was slim.
On Monday I attended a great Executive Deep Dive session and really enjoyed the first panel, which included veteran healthcare IT guru John Glaser. He’s been a voice of reason over the years and has good advice on how to run projects in a mindset that increases the changes of them being successful. I enjoyed his comments on the different ways that projects tend to turn out: 30% successful, with the rest being divided among options such as “trainwrecks” which are the spectacular failures, or “the great disappointments” which are ultimately worse.
His solid advice of keeping the transformation aspect at the forefront, as well as making sure everyone understands that transformation never ends, still rings true. Other advice such as making sure you have candor and openness on a project and making sure you aren’t trying to do too many things at once are sometimes overlooked but critical to successful initiatives. I also appreciated his advice to know how to pull the plug on an initiative when you see it’s not going to work out or drive value. One of my favorite takeaways from the panel was Glaser’s description of political support for transformation projects: “it’s like a slowly leaking balloon…. You have to re-inflate it every day.”
Monday night was the ATA social event, held at the Hard Rock Café as well as next door at the Howl at the Moon dueling piano bar. The Hard Rock scene was a little more chill, with people sitting and chatting while enjoying hors d’oeuvres and drinks. It was considerably less tame at the piano bar, where some of us retreated to the outdoor balcony in order to be able to have a conversation. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the apartments on the other side of the Riverwalk had soundproofed windows or how the residents otherwise coped with such noisy neighbors.
Still, it was a fun event to meet other attendees, learn what they’re doing in the industry, and to catch up with old friends. I’m at the point in my life where I can’t hang with the party crowd as well as I used to, so I headed back to the hotel while things were still in full swing in order to be ready for my early morning flight.
Wednesday was catch-up day. I’m privileged to have a great team who always has my back while I’m away, which is a big change from when I was doing interim CMIO work. The email volume was manageable and I caught up on some clinical reporting and other projects. The bright spot in my day was talking to one of my favorite graduating college students who is on the receiving end of some career recruiting by an EHR vendor. It was interesting to hear how the company portrays itself to potential applicants who are in non-healthcare fields and what they think of the recruiting pitch compared to other companies who are trying to catch their attention.
Since his major is highly specific and he’s got a very specific career in mind, he plans to look elsewhere, but it was an interesting conversation nonetheless. One of his close friends was also recruited and plans to pursue the opportunity, so I’m looking forward to hearing more about their journey.
I reached out to a couple of friends to ask about their HIMSS plans as I plan my Chicago travel. It sounds like even some of my die-hard attendee friends have opted not to attend this year. It’s a combination of working for companies that still have travel restrictions in place, not wanting to be away from family events given the later spring dates this year, and having limited conference budgets.
I’m not sure if large conferences will ever be what they once were in the pre-COVID era. From a HIMSS perspective, healthcare organizations are still recovering from the financial impacts of the pandemic, and if they have technology dollars to spend, they tend to be looking in focused areas. I’m not sure the large-format boat show of old is relevant to today’s buyers, but would be interested to hear from others with spending authority.
What’s the primary way you engage vendors for technology purposes? Are conferences and trade shows on their way out? Leave a comment or email me.
Email Dr. Jayne.