What to Watch for at HIMSS

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's (HIMSS) annual conference is the premier health information and technology event of the year, where health professionals and tech leaders from around the world—including symplr—connect for education, innovation, and collaboration. Expect to mix and mingle with CIOs, senior executives, payers, IT consultants, entrepreneurs, providers, and tech industry leaders.

More than 42,000 people registered for HIMSS 2019, and now this premier event is back with an in-person conference August 9-13 in Las Vegas after the pandemic shuttered last year's program. Proof of vaccinations are required for all in-person attendees, staff, and exhibitors, but for those who can’t attend in person, a unique digital program—complete with keynote speakers, education, and networking—will take place concurrently with the live event.

HIMSS is a big event that's packed with information, and it's easy to get overwhelmed. To get the most out of your time there, plan ahead, look for sessions that tackle your most pressing healthcare IT issues, and make yourself a tentative schedule so you don’t miss anything. And be sure to stop by the symplr exhibit booth (#3917) to say hello and get pointers for what to see and do during this year's conference.

What’s hot at HIMSS?

As you browse the HIMSS schedule, keep an eye out for programs, speakers, and events that focus on key trends that are most important to your organization and the industry as a whole. Many of these will relate to the future of healthcare delivery, whether that's telehealth, digital patient engagement, social determinants of health, or value-based care. The HIMSS online schedule is searchable by topic, making it easy for attendees to narrow down what programs and events they want to participate in and when.

Here are some key ideas, programs, and topics to watch for at HIMSS 2021.

Health equity for patients

Social determinants of health (SDOH) is more than a buzzword. It's also a critical part of the future of healthcare and how it's delivered. That's because social and economic factors—such as housing, healthy food, and income—play a disproportionately large role in people's health. In fact, research suggests that these SDOH can drive as much as 80% of health outcomes, while clinical care drives just 20%. The COVID-19 pandemic has only magnified the way race, income, education, and other factors can impact individuals’ health.

At HIMSS 2021, look for programs in the population and public health topic category, such as ones that tackle SDOH, charity care, community health, equity gaps, population health, using digital and mobile tools to tackle inequality, home care, and outreach.  


Telehealth usage skyrocketed during the pandemic, as CMS and private payers loosened rules for providers and reimbursement. Now the future of telehealth is marred by uncertainty, with open questions about whether reimbursement will continue, who will be allowed to practice telehealth and where, and whether there will be long-term payment parity between video, telephone, and in-person visits. Moreover, the telehealth boom opens additional doors for other questions and issues on the provider side, such as vendor credentialing and telehealth credentialing and licensure.

Refine the HIMSS 2021 schedule by the telemedicine topic to find programs that tackle issues like wearables and remote patient monitoring, care coordination, interoperability, reimbursement, and other topics related to telehealth.

Workforce management

Healthcare delivery is only as good as the people who provide it, so if your provider workforce isn't at the top of its game, the care they provide to patients will suffer, too. Provider burnout not only negatively affects nurses and doctors themselves by causing things like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, but it can have disastrous ripple effects, from costing the healthcare industry billions of dollars each year to negatively affecting patient outcomes. For instance, depersonalization, one of the three key areas of burnout, is associated with increased error reporting, a 2010 Annals of Surgery study found.

That's why workforce management is such a crucial part of healthcare delivery, from making sure that your units are adequately staffed to improving employee engagement and satisfaction.

There are lots of HIMSS 2021 programs that dive deeply into issues around career and workforce, which is one of the focus topics. Look for sessions on leadership, educational advancement, emotional intelligence, burnout, resiliency, health IT proficiency, and workforce equity. Another related topic deals with clinical issues, from the link between provider scheduling and patient outcomes to using analytics to improve patient care.

Cybersecurity and data safeguarding

Keeping patients and staff members safe extends to more than just their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. It also means keeping their data safe. Cybersecurity is a problem that's only getting harder to manage, with the number of breaches reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights in the first six months of 2021 increasing by 27% over the same period in 2020.

On the provider side, cybersecurity and data safeguarding takes many forms, such as taking steps to ensure third-party credential verification and securing the entire chain-of-custody for credentialing documents and information.

Not surprisingly, HIMSS 2021 is filled with more than 100 sessions and programs dealing specifically with the topic of security and privacy. You can attend discussions about:

  • Enterprise cyber risk management
  • Mitigating third-party risk
  • Security and privacy auditing
  • Cloud-related security
  • Ransomware and phishing
  • Medical device data security
  • Cybersecurity ROI
  • Volume to value

Value-based care—in which providers are paid according to their patients' health outcomes, rather than the volume of procedures that they perform—has been debated and discussed for many years. But it's only within recent years that the shift to value-based care has started to move from theory to reality.

Understanding value-based care is complex, and optimal reimbursement requires having a strong handle on the metrics used to determine value, including: 

  • Patient outcomes
  • Costs
  • Patient experience
  • Clinical best practices

Value-based care also requires an increased amount of care coordination across provider groups and even institutions—from pharmacy, nursing, and telemedicine, to long-term care, skilled nursing facilities, and others. Healthcare organizations can't afford hiccups or care interruptions. For example, credentialing and privileging processes need to be quick, streamlined, and accurate to ensure that high-quality providers are able to deliver high-value, low-cost care with no interruptions.

Since it's such a broad subject that touches every element of healthcare delivery, sessions and programs related to value-based care are spread throughout a number of topic areas at HIMSS 2021. These programs might fall into categories such as clinical performance, population health, or health IT-related subjects. Their focus varies, too, with sessions covering concepts such as the link between population health and value-based care, accountable care organizations, using electronic tools to measure patient outcomes, and others.

Go digital to get the latest on HIT

In addition to the in-person event, the HIMSS 2021 full digital schedule is also available online and covers the key topics we mentioned, as well. However, the program blocks are structured a bit differently, with each roughly two-hour program block containing multiple sessions that might include keynote presentations, digital networking, roundtable discussions or even exhibit hall tours, among other things. There are also international summits and on-demand content.

After a year apart because of the pandemic, HIMSS 2021 will once again be the hub for all things health IT and innovation for tens of thousands of attendees from around the world. Whether you attend in person or online, HIMSS is a can't-miss event where leaders, innovators, and experts gather to learn from each other, trade ideas and best practices, and arm themselves and their organizations for what's to come now and in the future. We can't wait to see you there! 

Want to meet with members of symplr's leadership team at this year's event? Contact symplr today!


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