The healthcare industry's biggest information-systems assemblage has called up some reinforcements this year to help propel advances in technology and long-distance medicine.
At the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society meeting and exhibition this month in San Diego, the U.S. Department of Defense will be setting up its own demonstration area in a hotel next to the main exhibition hall.
About 450 information-related exhibitors and 140 educational sessions are planned for the HIMSS gathering Feb. 16-20, which is expected to attract 15,000 registrants.
The Defense Department has been quietly pulling together some of the most advanced information systems for transferring medical data to and from remote locations, including the Persian Gulf and throughout the Pacific Basin.
As a co-sponsor of this year's HIMSS educational conference, the Defense Department's Health Affairs division is developing seminars and displays for private-sector healthcare specialists and managers, said John Page, HIMSS executive director.
San Diego also is the site of one of the most advanced military medical centers for deployment of information management. Naval Medical Center San Diego serves ships at sea and 13 remote locations through telemedicine capabilities.
HIMSS has planned a facility tour of the medical center as well as an overview tour of the area's Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture program, known as VISTA.
The mobilization of the military for this year's HIMSS show was indirectly launched at last year's meeting in Atlanta, after a speech by retired Gen. Colin Powell that included superlatives on the information infrastructure of the armed forces.
A questioner from the audience wondered why the Defense Department couldn't share all that good information technology with the wider world, Page said.
"They just happened to have a bunch of admirals sitting in the front seats" during Powell's speech, who asked their technology managers the same thing, Page said. That got the campaign going for this year.
Another benefit of the military presence will be a first-time opportunity for continuing medical education credits. Through the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the Defense Department is accredited to sponsor credit for physicians, nurses and members of the American College of Healthcare Executives, Page said.