Richard Covert, PhD, LFHIMSS is a former Director of HIMSS within the American Hospital Association and is a recipient of the HIMSS’ 50 in 50 Award, which recognizes the memorable achievements to the field or body of knowledge of healthcare information technology and management systems. He received this award at the 2011 Annual HIMSS Conference & Exhibition in Orlando on Feb. 22.
Ten individuals were recognized for each of the five decades since the founding of the organization in 1961. Eligibility for the award looked at accomplishments during the particular decade of consideration for the candidate. Professional accomplishments, contributions to the body of professional knowledge, thought and organizational leadership, as well as HIMSS membership were also considered during the recipient election process.
Nominations opened in November 2010, and recipients were selected by the former HIMSS Boards of Directors.
Covert served as the Society’s director from 1978 through 1989, overseeing and guiding many decisions affecting its future. He helped identify the organizations as a multidisciplinary professional organization that included information systems and telecommunications. As a result, HMSS was renamed HIMSS, in order to account for the inclusion of information systems. In 1986 under Covert’s leadership, the HIMSS Foundation was established as the philanthropic arm of HIMSS. The Richard P. Covert, PhD, LFHIMSS Scholarship for Management Systems is named after him and awarded annually to a HIMSS student member.
HIMSS: How did you become involved in HIMSS?
Covert: I became the director of HMSS (Health Management Systems Society) in 1978, which was comprised mainly of industrial engineers. During the 1980’s it became apparent that computers were becoming extremely relevant to and necessary in the health field. After the President-elect conducted several focus groups in 1986, it was decided that information technology professionals should become incorporated with HMSS. I suggested changing the name of the society to “HIMSS” in order to include information technology in our title.
HIMSS: What was the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Covert: The most rewarding aspect of what I did with HMSS and HIMSS was watching the organization grow and become increasingly relevant to the health field. When I first took over as director, we had 900 members and by the time IT was integrated into the Society, there were approximately 1,300 members. When I retired in 1991 there were several thousand members.
HIMSS: What was your greatest achievement as a director of HIMSS?
Covert: There are two achievements that I am most proud of: my contribution to the establishment of HIMSS and the development of the exhibit area. The first four exhibitors were present at an Annual HIMSS Conference in about 1980. The number of exhibitors doubled each year for the next six or seven years. There were over 900 exhibitors present at HIMSS11.
HIMSS: What are some of the most notable changes you've seen in the field of health IT over the course of your career?
Covert: The growth of IT. During the 1960’s, computers were used sparingly, mainly by accountants or researchers at universities. In the 1970’s, however, technology improved drastically and smaller more accessible computers, such as desktops and laptops were developed, which significantly increased the number of people using them.
HIMSS: What advice would you give professionals just entering the healthcare or IT field?
Covert: My advice to people just entering the managerial or health IT field would be to involve the physicians and nurses and other hospital personnel when making any changes in the IT system that is being used. If you want staff members to use the system you are developing, it is a tremendous help if they feel that they are involved in the development. If you provide health professionals with the opportunity to discuss the desired outcomes of the system that is being created you will create much better results.