We can no longer afford to let language be a barrier in health IT


I consider myself fortunate to have just moved house to a town outside Barcelona. Barcelona is one of my favourite cities – and it feels poignant to be making this move now, at a time when HIMSS (for those that do not know, a global not-for-profit dedicated to transforming health through IT), is really starting to grow its Spanish-speaking community. This is the case not just in Spain – which has had a strong HIMSS presence for some time – but throughout Europe and parts of North and South America too.


This expansion comes not a moment too soon, from my perspective. With the largest number of Stage 6 hospitals in Europe (HIMSS Analytics’ EMRAM scale grades how far hospitals have progressed towards a fully paperless environment, which is Stage 7) – and one of the two Stage 7 hospitals, Spain has an important story to tell within the global eHealth community;  and CIOs from the most technologically advanced hospitals will get an opportunity to do just that at HIMSS15 this year, as part of our newly launched EMRAM Stage 6 & 7 Club. But it is also personally important to me – with my home now in Spain and the Spanish people so significant in my life – that we give the Spanish-speaking component as a whole a louder voice within this wider community.

Most of our conferences and events – HIMSS provides thought leadership in the health IT arena through education, events and media services – have a Spanish-speaking element today. Our annual HIMSS Europe CIO Summit – a gathering of the Nordic, Dutch, French and Ibero-American communities, which takes place for the first time in Barcelona in October 2015 – for example, will be held jointly in English and Spanish this year.

eHealth Week – Europe’s largest pan-European conference, a collaboration between the Latvian Ministry of Health,  the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and HIMSS Europe, which is this year co-located with the mHealth Summit Europe – meanwhile, will also host two sessions dedicated to the Ibero-American community within its main programme, with Spanish, Portuguese and South American speakers. 

We want to invite the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking communities to have a stronger presence at our international conferences, where it might not be so easy for them because of language. One way we hope to do this is via our Ibero-American eHealth Exchange. This community has its own dedicated website with information about schemes individuals can participate in, from monthly webinars to certification and educational programmes for healthcare professionals and we hope it will become a neutral place where people can network and problem-solve with your Spanish and Portuguese-speaking peers.

We can no longer afford to let language be a barrier to learning from each other and sharing best practice. HIMSS is not seeking to ‘reinvent the wheel’, here – nor to duplicate any of the great work that local trade associations are doing  –  but seeking rather to complement what is already there, by facilitating more communication and exchange and contributing what we have learnt from an international perspective. And we’re excited by the interest we’re already being shown by the Spanish-speaking community.

Now that I’m living in Spain – and with the HIMSS Secretariat also now based in Barcelona – I’m much closer to what’s happening in the Spanish health IT community and feel there’s no better time to work to overcome challenges, break down barriers and strengthening the Spanish community.

Christina Roosen

VP, Public Affairs, HIMSS Europe