Willa Fields

Q&A with Willa Fields, HIMSS board chair

February 06, 2013
by Diana Bradley, Staff Writer
By Diana Bradley

Dr. Willa Fields, a professor at San Diego State University’s School of Nursing, began her journey with HIMSS as an annual conference reviewer. From there, she volunteered to be a member of the Annual Conference Education Committee, and ultimately became the chair. After serving on various committees and task forces, she decided to run for a board position. As the society’s current board chair, she reflects on how volunteering for HIMSS has been a rewarding professional and personal experience because of the information she has gained and people she has met. In this DOTmed News Exclusive, she tells us more about herself, HIMSS’ current activities and what to expect from this year’s conference, held March 3-7 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, La.

DMBN: What has been the high point of your career?
WF: As board chair, I had the opportunity to represent HIMSS with a testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Technology and Innovation Subcommittee of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hearing, entitled, “Is Meaningful Use Delivering Meaningful Results?: An Examination of Health Information Technology Standards and Interoperability.” It was a thrill to participate in influencing federal lawmakers on health information technology.

DMBN: What is your favorite thing about being involved with HIMSS?
WF: All of the knowledge I gain. Through HIMSS, I learn what is happening in the field of health information technology as it is happening. I’m always amazed at the resources HIMSS provides me through blogs, list serves, committee membership, and publications.

DMBN: Are there any initiatives you are promoting during your time as chair?
WF: By realizing the HIMSS mission (transforming health care through the effective use of health information technology), we will be able to improve the health of those we serve. As a nurse, I am a patient advocate, meaning that what we do needs to ultimately benefit patient care, whether it is improved quality of patient care, improved patient outcomes, easier accessibility to health care services, or more affordable care.

DMBN: What is the focus of this year’s HIMSS conference?
WF: The focus of HIMSS13 is the convergence of technology mandates and quality of care. So, let me focus on the exhibit floor and point to two areas that demonstrate this convergence through both education and the exhibits: The HIMSS Interoperability Showcase, where attendees can track their personal health record across multiple points of care in a clinical setting; and the Intelligent Hospital Pavilion, which brings together different technologies – including RFID, RTLS, wireless, clinical applications, and more, to show how these technologies work in different clinical settings. This year, this exhibit also has a virtual environment. These two interactive demonstrations show how technology helps improve the quality of care and have education sessions that are part of the exhibit area.

DMBN: Last year, H. Stephen Lieber, HIMSS CEO and president, noted that the move from ICD-9 to ICD-10 was one of the IT sector’s key challenges. Does this still ring true, or do you think there are different challenges the sector is contending with this year?
WF: Meeting the ICD-10 compliance deadline in 2014 remains a challenge for health care, and HIMSS maintains its position to start now to complete this transition. At HIMSS13, attendees can attend the ICD-10 Symposium, All Hands on Deck: Implementation, Optimization and Weathering the Perfect Storm, a pre-conference session on Sunday, March 3. We also have the ICD-10 PlayBook, an online resource updated on a regular basis with contributions from more than 30 organizations that are working to help health care providers transition to this new coding system.

DMBN: How is HIMSS reacting to Meaningful Use updates?
WF: AT HIMSS13, we have a new exhibit area called the Meaningful Use Experience. It has multiple components. Also note, there is no exhibit fee to be part of this area, but participating exhibitors must meet certain criteria to be part of the Meaningful Use Experience [go to www.himssconference.org for more information]. Through this exhibit, providers can “experience” products in a comparative setting, thus comparing products side-by-side; hear from other providers who will be part of the vendors’ exhibit and explain their implementation process using the respective solutions presented by the vendor; and learn from other providers who have already installed and are using a specific health IT solution.

DMBN: The “cloud” was a prominent feature at least year’s conference. Is there any new technology you foresee dominating the health IT sector in that way?
WF: Mobile health isn’t a new technology, but I see mobile as a dominant force in health care now, based on how patients now use their own mobile devices to access their patient health information. mHIMSS, the mobile initiative for HIMSS, will have a strong presence at the conference.
HIMSS13 also includes HIT X.0: Beyond the Edge, a special program on March 5th and 6th within the conference that looks at innovation and emerging technologies in health care with topics, such as incorporating health and wellness applications in cars.
The Innovation Symposium: The Science and Practice of Innovation is another pre-conference symposium focused on innovation that covers science and practice of innovation and how to apply those practices to a health care organization.

DMBN: What other initiatives or plans does HIMSS currently have in the works?
WF: Many of our current activities appear at the conference, with the programming and networking offered. One education area that is new this year is the HIMSS Healthcare Transformation Project: an invitation-only program for C-suite provider executives who want to help change health care – at the local level within their provider organization or in their own communities.