Editor's note: Matthew Weinstock will be reporting today through Thursday from HIMSS12.


LAS VEGAS — As I walked down The Strip, through the bustling crowds, I tried mightily to think of some funny way to lead out my first blog report from HIMSS12. Everything I came up with seemed so trite, though. And, to be honest, I was just too star-struck by the neon lights, mammoth fountains, 50-foot billboards promoting everyone from Garth (yes, he's just Garth now) to Celine (yes, she's just Celine now). It's enough to turn the brain to mush.

So, rather than pound out some lame attempt at humor, how about we just get right into the news?

Tens of thousands of health techies have descended on Vegas for HIMSS12. The show officially gets underway today and I'll have detailed blog reports Wednesday and Thursday. There were a host of pre-conference sessions and seminars yesterday. I opted to spend my time at CHIME's Spring Forum. It's always one of my favorite meetings. First off, the CHIME folks do a great job of lining up top-notch speakers who prod the audience to rethink the norm. Secondly, the 500-plus attending CIOs (and others) are a good group of professionals who seem to genuinely care about deploying solutions that will transform their organizations.

The speakers all touched on slightly different topics: leadership, patient-centered medical homes, social media and economics, but one theme emerged throughout the day: Data is king and hospitals need to adopt and, more importantly, embrace, IT systems that will allow them to harness the power of all that information they have at their fingertips. Those that don't will get left behind. Paul Grundy, M.D., president of the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative and director of health care transformation at technology giant IBM was blunter: Major purchasers of health care, like IBM, no longer want to buy from hospitals and health systems that fail to use data to build patient-centered, integrated delivery models that will ultimately be used to manage population health. The idea of paying for episodic care is over, he said, adding, "What happens when you deliver a product that we don't want to buy anymore and can't afford?"

Grundy referenced initiatives from major insurers, including several Blues plans that seek to fundamentally change the way care is paid for and delivered. The insurers are pumping up primary care, patient-centered networks and using data to drive decisions. IBM is doing the same, he said, and even using health care data to drive operational decisions — like where to build a manufacturing plant.

Pediatrician Wendy Sue Swanson touched a slightly different topic, but no less important — using social media and data to empower both clinicians and patients. Swanson writes a blog, Seattle Mama Doc, that's hosted by on Seattle Children's Hospital website. She also tweets and puts up videos about health related issues on YouTube. Swanson was passionate in her description about how hospitals can better use social media tools to reach out to patients. She uses her videos and blogs to provide parents with basic information — like how to read a growth chart. It's something all parents get when they take their kids to the pediatrician, but how many of us really knows what it means if our child is in the 75 percentile? She also uses social media to help parents better grasp the breadth of information that's out there. For instance, in the debate over vaccines and autism, Swanson uses social media to counter inaccurate information disseminated on daytime talk shows and direct patients to valid, scientific materials.

This is just the start, she said. She envisions a time in the not-too-distant future when physicians and patients communicate about routine health issues online. Health care needs to understand that patients — particularly younger ones — live in an online world. "Let's join patients where they are. Let's not be last again," she said.

Finally, I had the chance to talk with Drexel DeFord, senior vice president and CIO at Seattle Children's and new chair of the CHIME board. He told me that one of the biggest priorities for CHIME this year will be helping CIOs increase collaboration within their institutions. Not too long ago, CIOs were viewed as the "IT guy," delivering email and other office applications. From the rollout of EMRs to the formation of ACOs, CIOs need to collaborate with all parts of the organization, he said — from clinical to supply chain.