The Road to HIMSS 2015: The Shaun Sutner Interview
In our preparations for the 40,000-attendee strong Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2015, the Super Bowl of health IT trade shows, we sat down with SearchHealthIT.com Reporter Shaun Sutner to find out what he’ll be watching at this year’s show, his first. While Sutner previously worked for two decades as a reporter for the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette, prior to that he also worked in public relations.
MSLGROUP: HIMSS 2015 is still a bit down the pike. With that caveat, what are the stories you think you’ll be tracking most closely at the show?
Shaun Sutner: I am interested in looking at patient engagement and population health. They seem to be top of mind for everybody — vendors and CIOs – because more and more providers are taking on risk, it’s not just ACOs [accountable care organizations]. Vendors are offering these systems, and it’s not just EHRs that CIOs are worried about anymore.
I’m also going to be looking at VNA [vendor neutral archiving] and other advanced image visualization systems. Data analytics is also part of population health, and that is hot as well. This is not a show for wellness devices, because it’s not at the medical level yet.
Meaningful use stage 3 isn’t out yet. How will its release affect the mindshare of HIMSS attendees and exhibitors?
Stage 3 will focus on outcomes, as opposed to stage 2 and stage 1. [Looking at the Health IT Policy Committee’s recommendations for stage 3] there is a lot of wellness-oriented verbiage and most likely measures, possibly to involve wearables. That said, my sense is with so much turmoil associated with stage 2 and less success with attestation across the board, you’ve got to finish stage 2 before you worry too much about stage 3. I think that’s where we’re at; we’re in the middle of the hospital fiscal year, most haven’t done stage 2. [By HIMSS,] there may have been a Medicare patch bill in March that offers a 90-day reporting period for the year, and then we can start thinking more about stage 3. It’s a little bit unsettled, and that’s unfortunate. ICD-10 was delayed, and maybe stage 3 will be delayed. That’s my feeling.
[NOTE: After this interview, CMS announced in a blog post its intentions to put in place a 90-day reporting period and other changes to Meaningful Use via rulemaking.]
What’s the hottest company to be watching at the show?
I’d have to say Cerner and Siemens. The momentum of a $1.4 billion acquisition and expansion in Europe for Cerner, they got so much good media out of it as a big, friendly, open system who acquired a prestigious product. I’m going to say Cerner-Siemens was the biggest story in health IT in 2014.
Where will you be spending your downtime in Chicago [Note: Shaun is a self-proclaimed foodie and old-skool punk who once played in a band with Kenne Highland, formerly of The Gizmos]?
Restaurants. I’m not going to be doing any sightseeing, I’m not going to take a lake cruise or walk around Millennium Plaza or anything. I’m going to be there five nights and six days so maybe I will have some time to explore some of the neighborhoods on foot, who knows, but that’s my plan.
No time to hit the legendary underground music club, The Empty Bottle?
Will they have a show before 11 p.m.? If someone goes on before 11, I’ll go.
Slowing down nowadays compared to back in the day?
I like to get to the trade show before 8 [a.m.]. I like to be in the media room before 7:30, because I can get settled in and still hit an 8 a.m. panel, but yet set up my interviews, podcasts and videocasts for 11 a.m. That makes for an early dinner, early in bed.
Journalists get bombarded with PR folks and story pitches in the weeks leading up to HIMSS, I remember upwards of 50 a day myself. What advice do you give PR representatives for making their pitches cut through the noise and getting a callback from you?
I’m starting to get HIMSS pitches already. Here’s the deal: It’s got to be about one of the topics I mentioned I’m interested in, it’s got to include users [customer contacts]. It can’t be self-serving, it’s got to serve some larger purpose. Overarching all that, you have to know my content and who my readers are. What kind of content we produce, what our readers want to know, what they want to read. Not what a vendor wants you to know or read. I’m old-skool. I like phone calls. But I don’t like them late in the day.
This is an old PR saw, but good PR people don’t call reporters after 3 or 4 p.m. unless they want to get their heads chopped off. I will growl at PR people who call me then: “You got a minute?” [They’ll say]. “No. What if I called you at your biggest deadline time of the day and asked if you had a minute?” They have to be sensitive to this. Call [reporters] early in the morning when they’re organizing their day, early in the week, don’t call Friday at 3 p.m. You’d be surprised at how many PR people don’t know that elementary truth.