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What in the World is HIMSS Doing in Canada?

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If you’re a veteran HIMSS conference goer and you attended this year, did you notice something different?

Besides the conference having our most attendees to date, perhaps you noticed the emphasis on HIMSS as a global conference. Indeed, HIMSS18 Global Conference & Exhibition attendees had access to an unprecedented number of international speakers and vendors, including special programming highlighting digital health efforts in Canada.

As the vice president responsible for driving HIMSS’s outreach into Canada and a Canadian myself, I was pleased with the number of Canadian interests represented and highlighted throughout HIMSS18. We even had a Canadian Forum education program, where three back-to-back education sessions reflecting an array of digital health initiatives at the national, provincial and local levels were presented. For those who missed the Canadian-focused HIMSS18 presentations, you can access a summary of the various presentations.

Our efforts to advance digital health in Canada extend beyond the HIMSS conference, so I’d like to outline three major tactics we are pursuing in Canada.

Why Canada?

Let’s begin though, by first addressing why HIMSS is expending resources in Canada. Beyond the fact that Canada is part of HIMSS North America’s charge (I like to remind my American colleagues that there is a “north” in North America), there are two primary reasons driving HIMSS to focus efforts in Canada.

First, Canadians have a demonstrated interest in HIMSS. With limited/no effort by HIMSS, many Canadian digital health stakeholders have organically embraced HIMSS products, services and events, like our Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model (EMRAM) or attendance at the annual conference.

Second (and more importantly), HIMSS has something to offer Canadians that they are not currently achieving through their existing digital health associations: ready access to international insights, resources and audiences.

1. Strengthen the HIMSS Ontario Chapter

HIMSS is a membership organization with local chapters throughout the United States and select countries. In Canada, HIMSS has one chapter, the Ontario Canada Chapter of HIMSS (ON Chapter).

With an energized focus on expanding our influence globally, our first order of business has been to fortify our existing Canadian presence and provide renewed support to the ON Chapter and its newly elected board.

Given the strong cast of digital health leaders in this chapter, the ON Chapter has made some very significant gains in being a digital health force since its reconstitution in 2017 (check their website for upcoming events and networking opportunities). Digital health stakeholders residing and/or working in Ontario are strongly encouraged to join HIMSS, associate with the ON Chapter and become involved in volunteer opportunities for furthering digital health interests in Ontario.

2. Support Existing Canadian Digital Health Initiatives and Associations

The last thing we want to do when expanding our support in a jurisdiction outside the U.S. is ignore and, by implication, marginalize the work of native digital health players. Indeed, digital health stakeholders in Canada (and Canadians in general) have been well served by a number of groups and associations. Therefore, we have come alongside many of these groups this past year to lend support where we can, through sponsorships of an association like the British Columbia Health Information Management Professionals Society (BCHIMPS), or working with the Canadian Trade Commission to highlight Canadian digital health start-ups at HIMSS18.

While HIMSS will continue to reach out to a variety of Canadian digital health stakeholders, as HIMSS’s lead in Canada I strongly encourage Canadian digital health leaders to proactively reach out to me to explore ways to leverage potential synergies. We especially invite non-profit organizations to explore our Non-Profit Partner Membership program.

3. Fill the Void

As noted earlier, Canadian digital health stakeholders have been attracted to HIMSS because there is “something” we offer and/or are uniquely positioned to offer. What that something is of course varies by audience. It is our intent to continue exploring ways to fill the void for the Canadian digital health community. I greatly welcome feedback from my Canadian digital health peers as to ways you believe HIMSS could fill the void in supporting your digital health efforts.

I am excited what the future holds for digital health in Canada, and honoured that the Canadian digital health community is embracing HIMSS in changing our part of the world. I encourage readers to join us as we work together to realize better health through information and technology.