25 Feb HIMSS Kickoff: What time is it?
1. A place kick in American football that starts play.
2. A beginning for a new initiative.
Well, after one of those brutal overnight flights when you are constantly uncomfortable, I rolled into Orlando at 5:13 AM EST to the annual ritual called HIMSS. For anyone in health care IT, this is THE show each year wherein you get to see the largest gathering of health care information technology and the gathering of old school thought leaders (I say old school because all the next generation thought leaders gather at Health 2.0).
It brings back some good memories of another life . . . particularly the 2003 HIMSS show wherein we scrimped all of our cash to get an 10×10 booth because it would enable us to get 4 entry tickets for $1,000. We were so stoked to be getting into the show, and showed up to check out our space, only to be completely embarrassed by all these wacked out exhibits with moving parts, talking heads, and booth babes. We felt so rookie so we headed over to Kinko’s for an all-night session creating an 8×10 poster from in Adobe Illustrator. During the night, we divided an conquered: Steve and Ben designed all the poster, Fabian created pass out cards, and I wrote 92 emails to investors while keeping the team fueled with mountain dew and sour patch worms. In the end, we produced a pretty solid banner that we used as the backdrop to our two lap top computers. We had a great, albeit, sleep-deprived show.
I started the morning checking in with the investor breakfast, where Mark Leavitt addressed a group of VC’s regarding the potential and promise of health care IT. I spoke briefly with Jodi Hubler whom I have the privilege to work with at Lemhi Ventures, Geraldine Alias at Fidelity Investment, and Steve Bluestein at Bessemer Ventures to discuss their productive day as part of the 2nd Annual HIMSS Venture Fair put on by Howard Burde of Blank Rome. Howard was smart to initiate this effort, as the traditional VC capital markets have traditionally been focused on drug discovery and device manufactoring, and is now only waking up to the ongoing and growing opportunity around enabling health care services technology.
I headed over to the opening keynote with Senator Bill Frist, the first practicing physician to be elected to the Senate since 1928 (this was mentioned at least 10 times by the person introducing him, in the little vignette about his life, and the senator himself). He presented his overview of the health care situation, essentially to kick off the conference by telling everyone how important health care IT will be in solving some of the problems of the nation (in reference to his bi-partisan Health Care IT bill with Senator Clinton). He also used the forum to highlight the differences between Democratic and Republican constituents and their perspectives (Expansion of Coverage/Large Government role vs. Cost of Care/Market Forces, respectively). He also threw up the scary Medicare bankruptcy slides (2020 and counting – $31 TRILLION dollar unfunded promise) and his five major trends that he sees shaping the landscape moving forward (Demographics, Disease States, Consumerism, Care Delivery, and Science and Technology)
Unfortunately, Senator Frist was not as engaging a speaker as was Colin Powell from last year. I dozed off and awoke to the cheering as he wrapped up his remarks (clapping because he was done?!). The keynote ended with some weak, staged questions, and still weaker answers from Senator Frist. As he wrapped up he made an attempt to play on the rabid 8:30 AM crowd with a reference to the HIMSS theme song “This is Our Time”. Followed by the standard cheesy weekend band playing the tune.
Through the post red-eye haze, the only thing I cared about was “My Time”: 6:28 AM PST.
PS – The best part of the Keynote was watching HIMSS President John Wade doing a little jig on stage. John is someone that I respect for his no-nonsense approach and straight talk and so while I did wince watching him, I have to give it up to him for attempting to “get the party started”.