Exclusive Medika Conversation with HIMSS Top Leadership – Inside Scoop on Key 2024 Priorities

World's Key Health Information Society Takes on Pressing Issues - AI, Cybersecurity, Info Democratization and Prep for the Next Pandemic are on the Agenda

If you thought that HIMSS was the world’s biggest gathering for health information trends and hot topics, you’d be right – but only partially. Too many consider HIMSS the “once-year reunion” for global health information professionals. It is far more than a massive meet-up – it’s a global society working 365 days annually carrying the weight of the health ecosystem that spans patients, payers, product innovators (i.e., biotech, digital health, medical devices and pharma), policymakers and providers – pressing needs. Information is the connective tissue of the fragmented system – a system seemingly working cross-odds. HIMSS is the connector and, in many cases, the unifier.

Medika Life was given an opportunity to interview four HIMSS leaders – to hear more about plans for the Orlando global meeting and the priorities staff embrace year-round. It was clear that HIMSS staff see their roles as a professional responsibility and largely a public health mission.

Here are the #HIMSS24 Content Highlights:

Gil Bashe, Editor-in-Chief, Medika Life: The health industry has many essential trade associations of different types that we know of.  PhRMA and BIO, and to some extent, HIMSS, could be seen that way, but it has grassroots membership. There are certainly very senior people in our industry who are HIMSS members. You could say HIMSS has grassroots and grasstops affiliations.

HIMSS – NOW 125,000 Strong

Photo Credit: HIMSS – Christine Buck, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, HIMSS

Christine Buck, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, HIMSS:  Yes.  That’s right.  Let me offer context for Medika Life readers about HIMSS.  HIMSS is a 60-year-old organization and a global society that has evolved and changed.  It’s inspiring to see our community working to find solutions, thinking together as opposed to thinking in silos. And that’s what we need. We need to be the bridge. We need to be a transparent provider of democratized information.

Our membership has grown to more than 125,000 members. We landed on “Creating Tomorrow’s Health” because we are about the future, about bringing together individuals who care about generative AI and the patient. This is the difference between where we think about solutions not for the sake of an organization but the ultimate audience we all serve – patients. So that’s an exciting responsibility.

Bashe: I would very much appreciate knowing a bit about the fact that when we get together in two weeks in Orlando, some of the policy conversations will occur, from modernizing HIPAA to cyber security aspects. HIMSS is at the forefront of community building. It also tries to create a safe environment so that information can be used to improve the human condition. Could you share a little bit about that?

Photo Credit: HIMSS – Tom Leary, Senior Vice President, Government Relations, HIMSS

Tom Leary, SVP, Head of Government Relations, HIMSS:  Our policy initiatives are set by the board of directors and society members.  We are focusing on health equity. Everything needs to be pointed toward health equity so that we can leverage technology and data science to improve the human condition you’re talking about.

Specifically, concerning global conferences, we’re anticipating a lot of conversations in several key areas.

Artificial intelligence has just overtaken all the discussions around public policy. Several camps are starting to form. Some think AI is the panacea for the patient’s condition, provider burden, or any other categories we might want to discuss or that stakeholders might want to discuss.  The other camp is the fearful individuals- whether AI is taking their jobs or AI is making decisions where providers are not in the middle. It’s those kinds of conversations around artificial intelligence that we anticipate having.

Cyber security and data privacy.  The more that health care remains in the top five targeted sectors, we would fully anticipate a lot of conversation around how to maintain a high degree of vigilance and preparedness, and, quite frankly, both policymakers and our members want to talk about it, such as  “What do you know that I need to know so that I can better prepare my organization against a cyber-attack?”

Data modernization is a third key area for us that we anticipate a lot of dialogue on, particularly from the US perspective. What we saw from the global pandemic was a borderless global issue. Much investment in some areas, particularly in the clinical setting around technology advancements, resulted in excellent preparedness. However, we are still dealing with many paper-based approaches in the realm of public health and population health. So, how do you modernize the public health community?  We are facilitating ideas and conversations to address global public health priorities.

We’re very excited. A critical development in the last 48 hours is that the CDC Director, Dr. Mandy Cohen, will be the first CDC Director and, in close to 15 years, the only Director to address any HIMSS audience. More specifically, the top session that she’ll be sharing with the office of the National Coordinator is on the whole issue of data monetization. Those are three key areas that we’re looking at, particularly from a conference perspective. We can also get into some other year-round topics.

Challenges of Technology Linked to Patient Care

Bashe: I will want someone to address year-round topics because I see the annual meeting as the beginning or culmination of the year. I do have a question regarding innovation because we often talk about information. Still, I often find that many people from the digital health innovation sector attend HIMSS annually and at the national meeting.

Some of them come from chief technology offices or chief information offices or people involved in information services, or they’re people developing systems in terms of augmented intelligence or Chat GPT, the application of higher technologies to synthesize information.

Other people are looking at the integration of tools. Smart wearables, all these intelligent applications. I would very much appreciate your perspective as HIMSS leaders in talking a little bit about the role that HIMSS plays in supporting digital health innovation that collects and shares information.

Photo Credit: HIMSS – Toni Laracuente, Senior Vice President & Global Health of Analytics, HIMSS

Toni Laracuente, Senior Vice President & Global Head of Analytics, HIMSS:  My background in the clinical space is as a thoracic ICU nurse, which was my specialty for many years, and then I moved into quality improvements and Hospital Administration.

In the early days of electronic medical records, what you just described with nurses saying, “Oh, I don’t have time to look at that,” those were kind of the dark days of digital health, when systems were designed primarily as billing systems or departmental systems that were very focused on billing but had limited functionality and workflow process for the clinician, for the nurses, the doctors, physical therapists, and any other kind of ancillary professional service the patient may encounter.

Our practice within HIMSS analytics is genuinely focused on digital transformation. When I say digital transformation, I’m talking about the innovative, intentional, and clinically designed use of data and technology systems.

But people first, tech last. We look at people, processing data, and then technology because our approach is for digital transformation to be successful; it has to be person-centric and focused on the needs of the people who will be using and experiencing that technology.

It’s not a “one size fits all”.  The work we do with our digital maturity adoption models – you may have heard of the MRAM and ERAM adoption models. That’s the most well-known. But we have digital maturity models that span the entire care continuum. Suppose you consider any care delivery environment where a person may seek and access health care. In that case, our maturity models can assist and provide guidance and strategy for the digital transformation of those care delivery environments. The focus is on the person-centric or the patient-centric digital health ecosystem.

That is one of the presentations I’ll give at the global conference. It’s the use of digital maturity and digital transformation to build a person-centric digital health ecosystem. It needs to be a seamless process from the first encounter to the end of the encounter, from Pre-Natal right through to the End of Life.

Most importantly, it has to work seamlessly for everybody coming into contact with the system. So, that means using innovative technology. But the technology needs to work in the background. Then, the people using that technology can focus on their jobs. And we don’t have those situations where the nurses say, “Well, I don’t have time to read a digital health record.”

The response should be: “That is a tool that enables me to do my job so much better because I have access to the information that I need when and where I need it.” And the same is true for anybody, whether that’s the patient, the patient’s family, the physician, or any other healthcare provider.

Our maturity models are the focus of our work. All our maturity models have eight stages, and in the very beginning, at that stage of 0, 1, 2, which is pretty much where 95% of US and global healthcare systems sit in that early stage of digital maturity.

We often encounter process automation in some ways, but not digital transformation. Our tools and methodologies are designed to guide organizations from that piecemeal, fragmented use of technology and healthcare delivery to digital transformation, where you start at Pre-Natal and go through End of Life.

Leary: Regarding innovation, we’re very excited to have the ARAPH, the new Advanced Research Program Agency for Health (ARPA-H), which is a bipartisan development. They have about $2.5 billion that they want to spend on innovation, and they have a mandate to get the word out. Their deputy director is coming to the global conference to educate the healthcare community, from startups to large organizations, and to work with them.

Innovation can be stretched; what’s the next version of innovation in healthcare? They must find those innovative thoughts and voices and adequately fund them in a tight budgetary environment. Here in the US, they have $2.5 billion. And it’s a bipartisan belief that we need to continue to invest in that kind of approach.

It’s very similar to what happened with the 21st Century Cures Act. ARPA-H is new, and we’re very excited to have their senior officials there with us in the meeting with the startups and large organizations.

Global Meeting Hosting Government Leaders

Buck: I want to add that we have the South Korean Minister of Health is expected to attend, and representatives from Samsung Medical Center, which you’re going to be hearing a lot more about in terms of the innovation that they’re driving as a Stage 7 hospital system, but the message and the outcomes that they are going is a great touchpoint for all organizations around the world.

Bashe: To your point about the South Korean Minister of Health coming. It’s truly a global meeting, although it’s hosted in the United States.  

Hong Kong spends about 6 to 7% of its GDP on Health. They live about 15 years longer than we do in the United States. One of the things I find hopeful is that when I’m visiting and speaking to colleagues in other nations, most health information is digitized, consumers have their health records, and they are moveable.

Christine, to your point: when you and the senior staff are dealing with members of other governments worldwide, I imagine you’re serving an unofficial diplomatic role for the US health system with other people interested in sharing best practices. Could you give a glimmer about your global insights of not just dealing with the membership of HIMSS? I think you said there are 125,000 members now.

Buck: Toni, when you were speaking, the individuals in HIMSS come from a technology background; I have a FinTech background, and Toni is an actual patient care advocate. Everyone is invested in some way.  Hal Wolf, our CEO and President, is a person who works toward democratizing information between countries, dignitaries, and organizations, and that, to me, is a profound shift where we’re not keeping the information in for our benefit or someone else.

Our senior team comprises practitioners and developers of these new ideas, drawing ideas from the entire HIMSS staff and community. They’re leading panels like Toni or developing products.

Leary: The excellent collaboration between our organization and your experience has been so helpful to my growth—the beauty of what’s happening at global conferences. Perhaps we’ll get as high as 80 countries this year. They’re all searching for that digital health transformation approach, and sharing what they’ve learned and lessons they could learn from others is the key to the conference conversation and throughout the year.

The world looks at the 10-year investment that the United States made in digital health transformation, from 2010 through 2021, in the Medicaid/Medicare providers and all the providers that updated their systems. When the pandemic hit the United States, for all its politics around vaccination and immunization, aside from that, the United States was technologically ready to layer on telehealth services and various capabilities such as data and analytics because they’ve invested.

What we’re seeing in different parts of the world is curiosity about how the US did it, what kind of investment is needed, and what you would avoid if you were to do it again.

The Germans, for example, last year held a very impactful conversation with several members of the US Government on “If you had to do meaningful use over again, what would you do differently?” and struggling with the issue of not only provider burden but providers and patients “opt-in opt-out” of a program, whether it’s somewhere in Europe or Asia, or Central and South America.

They all want to get to that transformation—part of this conversation we’ll be having at our second Ministerial summit. Several years ago, we experienced the Minister of Tajikistan in one room, and the Columbian Minister of Health was in the next room, and they didn’t interact.

What we designed last year and again this year is a Ministerial Summit to talk about health equity, technology, and some of the capabilities we can all embrace as a community.

We’re expecting senior leaders from between 15 and 20 countries to sit around a table for two hours on Wednesday afternoon and continue the conversation into the evening at the international reception. They have those leaders together, talking about the vision for the future.

Bashe: The NGO element of HIMSS comes across. It’s a membership-based NGO. You are trying to advance collaboration and standards around how information can improve people’s lives and be somewhat universal. A nation’s borders do not trap information, and information shared can accelerate our understanding of how to deal with everything, from social determinants of health to the cost of health to the efficient use of health personnel, all that is driven by information. HIMSS is a depository of how processes impact performance in terms of health information. Would that be accurate?

Preparing for the Next Pandemic

Leary: That’s absolutely part of what we’ve seen over the last couple of years, which is that information sharing helps to advance not only individual countries but regional and global initiatives. The conversation that we had around the European health data spaces they developed for the EU was a big piece of legislation. There was concern that individual countries would be able to lock down their data.

If that is the case, what happened with the pandemic? What was the response to the pandemic, where data on COVID-19 from the early days of Asia would not have made their way to Europe, the United States, the Americas, and Africa? Researchers were able to work together because the data flowed from place to place, turning it into actionable information and vaccination and policies.

Suppose we don’t have those global dialogues around the power of the data and turning it into actionable information. In that case, you don’t have that kind of rapid response in a global pandemic.

Bashe:  As the HIMSS C-suite team, you’re part of a bigger puzzle. Your pieces have to align together, and I appreciate that. But regarding your mandate responsibility to the HIMSS community, could you share an expectation or hope you’d like to see come out of the upcoming meeting?

Buck:  My expectation and hope are that we create the energy for people to not just convene at one moment in time for a few days, but that it carries on 365 days a year and that we also create a stronger connection to the value that HIMSS bring to members, to organizational affiliates, to providers and patients. My goal is to get the human message out there and have all the passion and hard work come out from the team you see here and everyone who attends and creates that community.

Photo Credit: HIMSS: Jim Burnett, Vice President, Engagement Strategies, HIMSS

Jim Burnett, Vice President, Engagement Strategies, HIMSS: HIMSS is an entire constellation involving research, analytics, government relations, professional development, and our chapter community. What we have is this community, which offers a wealth of engagement opportunities. In going through the study of all our different member communities, what I’m finding most clear is we need to draw people into that community from this important event. They need to come into the government relations group from the government; they need to go into the analytic tool sets to roadmap their digital transformation.

At the event, I hope our broader community is getting a lot more exposure and that we are helping people understand that it’s not this point in time. It’s not this individual session that you’re sitting in. It starts there and then crawls through that spider web through all these other supportive products and services that come out with the association.

Bashe: I notice that HIMSS members are deeply committed to the organization. It’s not like I’m sending in my annual check; they feel that by being a member of HIMSS, they are part of that conversation, part of the process of the evolution of the system, of how the information will be used.

Jim Burnett, how much of your role is spent in terms of looking at member retention and member acquisition, but also making sure that people understand the culture, the inherent values of HIMSS, and the responsibility that HIMSS feels in terms of how the information will be used to improve the health system?

Burnett: It’s about the overall value driven by the community and the collaboration. Most hospital systems aren’t in competition with one another. It’s the rising tide lifting all boats. To ensure that all these voices are heard, that their case studies are involved in our research, that their voices are indeed heard in the community, and that they can share their best practices.

That is the actual value of that community piece. It’s not necessarily the most prominent voices. You need to be able to pull from the corners of the room, draw people out, and get their perspectives on the conversation. I think that’s a critical point.

Professional Development to Initiatives on the Hill

Bashe: It’s not about digitally emailing your membership that their dues are up. Tom, how big is your policy team?

Leary: Our policy team is seven people. We deputize everyone on this screen, the rest of the organization, and the membership, so our policy team is 125,000 people. We’re seven staff. It’s a good thing.

Bashe: Is there a piece of legislation or conversation you and the team are hyper-focused on right now? What do you feel concerns the American health system here in the US?

Leary: We’re very focused on proper Office of National Coordinator funding.  They haven’t had a reasonable budget since their first year. They’re the little agency that can. 

There are two other pieces of legislation that we’re pounding on for this year. One is the telehealth provisions from the pandemic, which were extended through December of this year. And we’re working across the coalition to make that policy permanent. We’ve seen the benefit of telehealth. We’ve all benefited from it. The greater access and better healthcare outcomes. Those were set to go back to March 12, 2020, in terms of policy structure if we don’t make that policy permanent.

Laracuente: From an analytics product perspective, we are launching our newest digital maturity model, the infrastructure adoption model, and that launch is happening at our booth at 4 pm on Tuesday.

We’ve invested heavily in completely rewriting and modernizing this model. Throughout this session, we discussed using artificial intelligence, cyber security, and technology infrastructure. Overarching the in-frame model enables an organization to manage the risk of having technology. Financial risk, data, security, and privacy risk. And the risk that comes with user adoption and getting the greatest return on investment.

We’re launching that. But from an all-encompassing digital health ecosystem view. I love that you started this conversation by discussing the connections between patients with health problems. Jim mentioned that hospitals work together to try to lift each other in healthcare. When we look at health outcomes, all of the work we do in digital transformation is focused on improving the health of populations everywhere.

Part of what I’m touching on in my presentation on Tuesday is – are you familiar with the quintuple-

aim of health from public health improvement? Everything we do is focused on improving population health outcomes. Still, worldwide health care is focused on that overarching premise of the quintuple aim – improving access to care, improving patient experience, workforce experience, health, equity, reducing costs, and enhancing value for money.

We’re positioning our work in digital transformation and the maturity models in alignment with that. We’re very focused on how the digital security models deliver health outcomes and how those outcomes contribute to our provider organizations achieving success across those five domains of the quintuple.

You mentioned innovation earlier, and one thing that I wanted to touch on is when it comes to artificial intelligence, there’s a lot of discussion and hype around it, i.e., AI will take our jobs in healthcare. That couldn’t be further from the truth. AI will help us do our jobs much better, the jobs we’re all here to do, and why we get out of bed every day.

AI Will Unleash Waves of Practical Applications that Improve Patient Care

Bashe: There was a recent trending piece in Medika Life about pathologists and AI that reduces their attention when they feel they have more specificity and improve accuracy.

Laracuente: AI is perfectly positioned to do that when we look at the HIMSS mission around equity and health outcomes. I always start any conversation about AI and the workforce with the premise that AI will not replace healthcare providers or physicians. However, the physicians who use AI to do their jobs better and more efficiently will replace those who don’t.

Bashe:  The technology of the horseless carriage replaced blacksmiths through time. Technology has replaced professionals. I know that that’s very true. Humanity wins, hands down. It is unleashing as Innovation Theorist John Nosta proclaims, “the cognitive age.” Open-minded people who can hone their curiosity and ask the right questions will be valuable. Those who can’t put two words together will be in trouble.

Buck: That’s what I love about HIMSS – we’re substantive. We’re the real deal. We’re not fly by night. I love that about this whole conversation, but the entire organization and our community worldwide are the substantive providers of the suitable types of information people seek.

Bashe:  Everything is rooted in information. How we respect information, access it, and democratize it is essential. HIMSS is in incredible hands thanks to your collaborative leadership.  Thank you for sharing these thoughts and essential priorities for improved healthcare access and delivery to Medika Life readers.  I’m looking forward to continuing this conversation in Orlando.

Here is a special preview of the “Health Unabashed” interview with HIMSS CEO and President Hal Wolf on Healthcare NOW Radio from Monday, March 11th to Sunday evening, March 24th.

Gil Bashe, host of Health UnaBASHEd on HealthcareNOW Radio, spotlights a HiMSS24 Preview with Hal Wolf CEO, Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS), convening at the Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Florida from March 11th-15th 2024. More information:


Special thanks to Albe Zakes, HIMSS Director, Corporate Communications for facilitating this conversation with HIMSS leadership.


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Gil Bashe, Medika Life Editor
Gil Bashe, Medika Life Editor
Health advocate connecting the dots to transform biopharma, digital health and healthcare innovation | Managing Partner, Chair Global Health FINN Partners | MM&M Top 50 Health Influencer | Top 10 Innovation Catalyst. Gil is Medika Life editor-in-chief and an author for the platform’s EcoHealth and Health Opinion and Policy sections. Gil also hosts the HealthcareNOW Radio show Healthunabashed, writes for Health Tech World, and is a member of the BeingWell team on Medium.


Editor in Chief, Medika Life

Meet the Medika Life editor-in-chief, working closely with founding editors Robert Turner and Jeff Livingston, MD.

Not your usual health-industry executive, Gil Bashe has had a unique career shaped by more than three decades in health policy, pharma, life science, digital health, eco-health, environmental innovation and venture capital and informed his determination to ‘give back.’

A champion for health innovation that sustains people’s lives and improves their care, Gil honed his perspectives on both battlefield and boardroom. He started in health as a combat medic in an elite military unit. He went on to serve as a clergyman tending to the ill; as a health products industry lobbyist in environmental affairs; as CEO of one of the world’s largest integrated health marketing companies; as a principal in a private equity-backed venture; as a Medika Life author and Health Tech World correspondent; and as Chair Global Health and Purpose at FINN Partners, a community of purpose dedicated to making a difference.

In the forefront of change, Gil is ranked as a Top 10 Digital Health Influencer; Medical Marketing & Media Top 10 Innovation Catalyst; Medika Life named him a “Top 50 Global Healthcare Influencer,” and PM360 presented him with its “Trailblazer Lifetime Achievement Award.” He is a board member for digital health companies and is an advisor to the CNS Summit, Galien Foundation, Let’s Win for Pancreatic Cancer, Marfan Foundation and other health-centered organizations.





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