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HIMSS: Part of the solution, or part of the problem?

May 26, 2009
by jlee
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The Washington Post has published a couple of articles within the last few days shining a spotlight on the obvious influence that HIMSS exercised in drafting the HITECH Act and the HIT components of ARRA. The reports drew attention to the web of connections between HIMSS, CCHIT, CITL, the Administration, Congress and the ARRA.

The uninitiated wouldn’t be blamed for coming away with the impression that there was a conspiracy of powerful insiders who manipulated Congress into funneling billions to big healthcare IT vendors.

I think that a little perspective might come in handy.

For the sake of full disclosure, let me say up front that I am a member of HIMSS. Through the years I’ve volunteered for various committees and workgroups. I’ve tried to attend the national and state chapter meetings regularly, and consider HIMSS to be my most important professional organization.

With that established, the fact that I feel as strong an association with the organization as I do is a small piece of evidence contradicting the contention that HIMSS is a “vendor dominated” organization. From where I sit, it feels as if HIMSS has made a concerted effort to represent the interests of all the constituents that make up the HIT industry.

Does that include vendors? Sure. And I’m not so naïve as to think that the funding provided by the vendors isn’t a dominant portion of the organization’s budget.

But HIMSS constituents also include hospitals, the military, public health organizations, ambulatory healthcare organizations like mine, and a lot of individual members like me. I think that HIMSS leadership has recognized the necessity of navigating a middle road among these groups in order to maintain credibility with any of them.

HIMSS claims about 20,000 individual members. Most of them are individuals who have toiled in the backwater of HIT for years, battling constrained budgets, clueless administrators, reticent users, and immature systems. They’ve been motivated by faith in the promise of IT to improve the delivery of healthcare- not just in this country, but around the world. They’ve felt as if they were doing the Lord’s work.

20,000 members sounds like a lot, but trust me, the HIT world is a very small one. Most of us have been doing this for a while; we attend the same meetings, read the same articles, and share many of the same problems. There are considerably less than six degrees of separation between those of us who are tucked away in Appalachia and the Mark Leavitts of the world.

How does that 20,000 HIMSS members compare to other professional organizations?

Here, culled from their respective websites, are some examples…

Organization

Membership

American Library Association

67,000

Oncology Nursing Society

37,000

Pages

Topics

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