• Ruth Amos RN JD

HIMSS18 and Straight Outta Compton?!

Ok- before I get slammed for comparing HIMSS to violent gangster rappers, let's be clear. I'm a fan of the movie Straight Outta Compton AND HIMSS- I do not condone violence nor misogyny in any way. I do, however, strongly support Freedom of Speech and real portrayals of life as it happens- the good, the bad and the ugly. 

This may come as a shock with me having been born white with blonde hair, blue eyes and all, but I was a rather frequent visitor to the Compton area during the 1980's and saw firsthand just how bad it was for those who lived there. I had good friends in that neighborhood who were decent and honest people. They did, however, have certain street wise family members who insisted on escorting me to my car (and basically wherever I went in the neighborhood)- with a loaded 357M and/or Glock in hand- always. Though not a huge fan of guns in general, I appreciated the protection under the circumstances. A few years later, I was on the phone with these same friends the day after the April 1992 riots sparked by the Rodney King verdict began. They described how their street was literally blown apart by arson and looting; they were hiding out, just trying to stay alive.

Similarly, my journey in US healthcare started in the '80s. As many of you can relate, I've been a personal witness to how corrupt and dangerous it has become. Fortunately, like my good friends in Compton, there are many amazingly good people in healthcare too. 

Between these two experiences, I've seen a lot of fighting, hiding, violence and corruption, along with many courageous acts. Guess I really like adventure.

For those who are not familiar with this popular film from 2015, here's a brief summary of Straight Outta Compton from Rotten Tomatoes that captures the essence of the plot for purposes of this article:

"In the mid-1980s, the streets of Compton, California, were some of the most dangerous in the country. When five young men translated their experiences growing up into brutally honest music that rebelled against abusive authority, they gave an explosive voice to a silenced generation. Following the meteoric rise and fall of N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton tells the astonishing story of how these youngsters revolutionized music and pop culture forever the moment they told the world the truth about life in the hood and ignited a cultural war." 

My favorite scene in the movie is when the rappers are being interviewed by the press- here's a video clip of that scene.

Like the movie Straight Outta Compton boldly portrays the dangers of everyday life in Compton (South Central Los Angeles), I was pleasantly surprised to see HIMSS18 confront some of the tremendous challenges and atrocities occurring in US healthcare, as well as outline avenues for redesign. 

While navigating the vast array of exhibitors on several floors of the Sands Expo Center, I came across some brilliant data analytics platforms with amazing teams seeking to make sense of the vast healthcare data that spews from countless fragmented silos. As wonderful as these people and products are, their challenges are daunting. They admittedly face the harsh reality that the data they receive from healthcare payers, providers, etc. may be inaccurate, incomplete and/or delayed, over which they have little to no control. Kind of like my friends in Compton, I feel like these companies are trying their best to provide value with their (digital) feet bound and hands tied behind their backs.

Hearing Seema Verma, David Shulkin, and Jared Kushner, among others, from Washington DC speak of the current administration's unabated commitment to providing patients with their data, ensuring accurate patient identification, and making medical records interoperable helped set the tone and seemed to give permission for revolution. 

Despite my penchant for adventure, I'm otherwise pretty careful and maintain cautious optimism regarding their proclamations. Seema Verma's speech in particular had many similarities to a patent application made by Robert Gergely, MD Inventor/owner of Patent Application #15812158 Health IT / PMR / MedicalPassport, with whom I've had several conversations lately. It's a bravely accurate outline of what is needed- and it's gaining a lot of attention in high places within Washington. I'm happy to share the pdf file for your review.

Let's get real, now- these concepts, once carried out in real life, mean major disruption and disbanding of some mighty large stakeholders making hugely obscene profits. I won't get into who they are in this article, but readers at the front lines of digital health challenges have a pretty decent idea. The billion (or trillion?) dollar question is- will these impacted stakeholders be deemed "too big to fail?" I sincerely hope not! Revolution is in the air, truths are being shouted, and the mighty in the wrong must eventually fall. 

The real change agents, I believe, are not necessarily the ones in the suits from DC- rather, they are the brave groups who meet regularly and have banded together for positive movements in the right direction for the right reasons. One such group I'm proud to align with is the Pink Socks tribe (#pinksocks on Twitter) formed by Nick Adkins, a passionate, kilt wearing leader who has managed to attract over 30,000 participants worldwide. These people are the real deal, where diligent and honest problem solving is discussed outside of boardroom walls. Now, some people in the group may hold corporate positions, but the conversations are not laden with corporate healthcare revenue gaming, unless it is to discuss how to abolish it. At an offsite Pink Socks meet up in Las Vegas during HIMSS, I was fortunate to meet Dan Munro, the visionary author of the book Casino Healthcare. He was kind enough to gift me an autographed copy of his book- a must read for all. And, I was given actual pink socks, too (P.S. you can't buy them- part of the deal is receiving and giving them freely). Today I sent a pair of pink socks in the mail to a lawyer on the HIMSS Legal Task Force- of which I am also a member- time to get the attorneys involved!

Others I know did not attend HIMSS for several reasons- some are of differing political views, and some are of the opinion that HIMSS is cashing in on the plights of healthcare when the money is needed elsewhere. There certainly appears to be some merit to these arguments after seeing a few of the lavish vendor displays that I often confused with the nearby casino, and after watching the 43,000 plus attendees struggling to find their way to the next meeting in a conference room far away. Despite that, I am still hoping to convince the naysayers to come next year, just to network if nothing else.

I believe HIMSS serves an important and powerful role in giving a voice to the current state of healthcare and seeking new paths to resolution- not only from a digital perspective, but from a necessary policy one as well. As with all things in life, great power comes with great responsibility. HIMSS is on task more than ever before to provide a real and honest view of where we are, regardless of how raw the facts may be- and like the rappers in Straight Outta Compton- no sugar coating allowed. 

Hope to see you next year in Orlando- stay tuned!

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