HIMSS22 opening keynote: 'What will we do to reimagine health together?'

Photo: Lotus Eyes Photography for HIMSS

ORLANDO – At the opening keynote of the 2022 HIMSS Annual Global Health Conference & Exhibition on Tuesday morning, HIMSS CEO Hal Wolf welcomed the crowd of healthcare, information and technology professionals and urged them to “reengage and reimagine health.”

After two years of a tragic and disruptive worldwide pandemic that has shone a harsh spotlight on many inefficiencies in the global healthcare delivery system and the ways social structural structures can adversely influence health outcomes, this gathering of healthcare professionals “is a real opportunity,” said Wolf.

“As you reimagine health, you should have a focus on global health equity,” he said. “We really do not have a choice to be complacent.”

As Wolf explained, “if we don’t think about this globally – think about population health management, access to affordable care, taking care of people wherever they are – we leave intact a fundamental environment that is going to be susceptible to all the risks we had before.”

He added: “We simply can’t afford to miss these lessons that we’ve learned. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. You have to ask yourselves: What will you do to reimagine health? What will we do to reimagine health together?”

The COVID-19 crisis has shown how social determinants of health – food insecurity, socioeconomic status, access to education, reliable transportation, environmental factors, aging, loneliness – are essential, and demand to be addressed.

“We know that these social determinants are also shaped by structural determinants, such as race and gender, class and other attributes that can create disadvantages that lend to the disparities we talk about,” said Wolf.

Solving these large-scale and systemic problems will not be easy. It will be “a great global challenge,” he said, “and an even greater global opportunity.”

For inspiration, he brought with him words of inspiration and blessings from “someone who has tremendous interest and insights about global health equity.”

Wolf recently traveled to Rome, where he had an audience with His Holiness Pope Francis. And he returned with words from the pontiff, calling on HIMSS22 attendees to keep the poor and underserved at the forefront of their efforts to build a better healthcare system.

“In the context of current challenges posed by economic and social inequities, His Holiness trusts that the decisions and deliberations of these days will draw attention to the right of all, especially the poor and most vulnerable, to have access to essential and effective healthcare,” said Pope Francis.

“It is hoped that the work of this conference will contribute in initiative and sustainable ways to serving the well-being and dignity of our brothers and sisters in the spirit of justice, compassion and fraternal solidarity,” he said – closing his greeting by offering blessings of “wisdom, strength and peace.”

The power of connection

After that welcome, HIMSS22 keynoter Ben Sherwood, former co-chairman of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television Group, took the stage for a speech titled, “Daring Greatly: Leading and Succeeding in the Age of Disruption.”

It was a wide-ranging and inspirational treatise on thinking boldly and enabling innovation – drawing lessons from the unyielding and expansive vision of Walt Disney, the story of David & Goliath, the unconventional fighting style of medieval farmers and more.

And it closed with some inspirational words from his friend, the late film director Mike Nichols (which also happens to be the epigraph of E.M. Forster’s novel Howards End).

“Two words, he said, unlock the secret of every success: Only connect.”

Sherwood added: “Technology is changing healthcare every minute. The pace of change over the next five years, let alone the next 50, is going to be breathtaking. And yes, we still don’t know all the ways that the pandemic has disrupted and will disrupt the world.

“But if you want to know the one thing that works in this world, the one thing that keeps people coming back to Disney year after year, is the power of connecting – with your family, with your friends, with your colleagues, through experiences and characters and stories that unite and don’t divide us.

“Only connect. That’s the pixie dust. That’s the magic of Disney. That’s the thing that algorithms can enable, but they can never do themselves.

“Only connect. That’s the thing that telemedicine can empower in mind boggling ways, but only really works with the power of one human being taking care of another.

“Only connect. It may sound corny, but here at HIMSS22, I exhort you to do the one thing that has been so hard during this pandemic.

“It takes a lot of energy to get to know somebody else. It takes a lot of time to slow down for a second, to stop your feeds, to shut down your devices and to have a conversation.

“But I believe that if you want to achieve what you want to achieve, if you want to be a leader in a disrupted time, connection is the thing that’s going to get you the farthest.”

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.

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