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Q&A with Dr. Michael Zaroukian, Chair, HIMSS North America Board of Directors

February 21, 2017
From the January 2017 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

HCB News: What things are you championing in your role as chair?
My primary goal as HIMSS North America (HNA) board chair is to gather, harmonize and share the incredible collective wisdom, insights and strategic direction of the HNA board of directors with the dedicated and talented HIMSS management team. The team translates this direction into actionable goals and tactics to improve health through IT, accomplished through the yeoman’s work of our amazing volunteers. We are focused on helping our stakeholders achieve value from their health IT, particularly to: support care transformation; expand access to high-quality care; increase economic opportunity; and make communities healthier. Issues underscoring these areas include cybersecurity, interoperability, population health analytics (predictive and prescriptive), patient engagement, public policy and health IT workforce vitality.

HCB News: What are the biggest challenges facing health care IT professionals today?
I see the biggest challenges in meeting the needs of a rapidly changing delivery and payment system. We need advanced, interoperable IT systems with robust analytics, population management, care coordination and patient engagement capabilities to deliver, measure, report and continuously improve patient care effectiveness, efficiency, safety, security and satisfaction.

HCB News: What are the main opportunities?
MZ: The challenges illuminate many of the opportunities. I anticipate significant demand for IT professionals with advanced skills in cybersecurity, analytics, data science, user-centered design, interoperability, APIs, device integration, telehealth, IT infrastructure, consumer engagement, patient experience, workflow process improvement and health IT safety.

HCB News: Are there any challenges unique to HIMSS as an association?
With its global reach and activities, HIMSS is challenged to bring thought leadership, convening capability and useful resources in the face of distinct and evolving geographic, political, social, cultural and technical environments. This demands alignment of governance and management to effectively operate around the globe, providing effective and realistic IT solutions.

HCB News: Are there any specialties under the health IT umbrella that are critically understaffed?
The 2016 HIMSS Leadership/Workforce study suggests the demand for health care IT workers is broad and deep. The need appears greatest among vendors, consultants and hospital organizations, particularly for support staff roles (clinical application support, help desk, IT project management). Several sources also suggest that there is a major shortage of talent necessary for organizations to take advantage of big data. In addition, HIMSS cited the current shortage of qualified cybersecurity professionals in its Cybersecurity Call to Action.

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