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AMIA 2009 – opening session November 16, 2009

Posted by peterjmurray in AMIA, conference, health informatics.
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There was no reliable wifi for the opening session, so this blog post was written during the session and uploaded afterwards. Ted Shortliffe, AMIA CEO and President gave the opening and welcoming remarks. Attendance is on target for this year, with 1,900 so far, with expectation of over 2,000 due to on-site registrations to come. Lucila Ohn–Machado, SPC programme chair followed Ted; she reported that there are 360 posters, some panels and late-breaking sessions, and a number of other innovations. The SPC includes representatives from training programmes and journal editors or representatives. There is also a journal-eligible programme, with 7 journals (including JAMIA, IJMI). Lucila gave an overview of a number of highlights to be presented during the next few days.

Following this, there was an overview of the student paper competition from David Krusch; of 80 submissions, 52 were selected as short-listed finalists, then narrowed down to 8, from which the final three winners were selected. Winners will receive cheques and certificates – third place winner, from Carnegie-Mellon is Christopher Harley; second place from Columbia University is Chintan Patel; first place winner of student paper competition is John D Duke, from Indiana University and Regenstrief Institute.

David Bates, Chair of AMIA Board, was the next speaker, giving an overview of other award winners presented at the AMIA Leadership Dinner on Saturday evening. Joyce Mitchell, president of ACMI, then presented the Morris Collen Award (AMIA’s highest award, for lifetime achievement), given to Betsy Humphries, Deputy Director of the US National Library of Medicine, together with new inductees into the College (founded in 1984 with over 300 Fellows). The award was presented by Morris (currently 96 years old and living in the San Francisco bay area).

The opening keynote presentation was given by Mark D. Smith, President and CEO of California HealthCare Foundation. Mark says he is not in informatics, and is not a technologist, but is passionate about the use of IT in healthcare. He began by talking about ‘hope’ – he says the “stars are aligned” for delivering on the promises around using technology to change healthcare. Why can you put a piece of plastic in a hole in the wall anywhere in the world and get money from your bank account – but go to the hospital you were born in and they don’t know the most basic things about you? – a paraphrase of a question Mark asked. He gave a couple of examples of kiosk-based information and symptom checking.

Mark then moved on to the “hype”; starting with Gartner Hype Cycle – suggests we are at peak of inflated expectations in use of technology/IT in healthcare. He says there has been hype, and we have been having the same debates, for nearly 40 years, with predications/hype of change for that long. Avoiding the ‘road to hell’ – he suggests need to pay attention to policy, pay attention to key technology issues, and address the forces of inertia. A lot of scientific studies costing many millions of dollars have produced ‘nothing but tenure’ – but have had no effect on healthcare delivery systems – this has got to change, he says. The only thing we do more or less same as 20 years ago is healthcare – basic structures have changes, despite a few new gadgets etc – but technology has changed many other areas of everyday life. He gave the example of opentable.com as a way of booking a reservation for dinner; are integral to restaurant reservation systems. By implication, he asks – why cannot we do the same in healthcare? “The restaurant owner did not have to come to a conference to get 10×10 certified to be able to use the system to get more customers into his restaurant”.

Critical technology areas – embrace affordability (we know what we can afford, what can we get for it?) – need a priority in bringing down the costs of healthcare while maintaining quality etc. Need to focus on the consumer – technology needs to be simple and elegant if people are going to use them. We also need to “avoid analogue limbo” – we have fast cheap machines linked by slow, dumb humans; there is no end-to-end digital movement and manipulation of data. So pressing task is to eliminate the trapping of data in analogue limbo.

His final admonition – aimed at students, and the younger generation – this is the chance to fundamentally transform the system – so “don’t screw it up”.

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