The cornucopia that is the annual HIMSS conference and tradeshow – healthcare technology’s biggest event – is behind us, but what’s left in the wake is wonderful, inspiring even, if not a bit overwhelming. The reactions to this year’s event have been overwhelmingly positive. Interoperability in the form of data sharing and a ban on patient health information blocking by CMS (through proposed rules released the first day of HIMSS) set the tone.
This was followed by CMS administrator Seema Verma taking a strong tone in all of her presentations at HIMSS, with the media and during her keynote speech. The federal body made it clear that data generated from patient care is, unequivocally, their data. While these themes heavily influenced the show, there were other takeaways.
My personal takeaway from HIMSS is “mind the gap.”
There are many other diverse opinions about what came out at HIMSS19 and the themes that will affect healthcare in the year ahead. For some additional perspective, I turned to healthcare’s thought leaders; people who are a lot smarter than I. Their responses follow. That said, did we miss anything in the following?
Erin Benson, LexisNexis Health Care
The proposed rule on interoperability of health information influenced most conversations at HIMSS. In the context of cybersecurity, the rule served as a reminder that it’s just as important to let “good guys” in quickly and seamlessly as it is to prevent unauthorized access. We want to enable value-based care and give patients the ability to manage their own health by having access to their records. We also want to keep costs low and efficiency high by enabling interoperability and giving partners, vendors and employees necessary access to systems. Therefore, a cybersecurity strategy needs to strike a balance between user engagement and data security.
Mike Morgan, Updox
The power of consumerism is really impacting healthcare and the need for patient engagement is alive and well. Providers across the board must look at new technologies and ways to redefine patient engagement to better communicate with patients and partners but do it via channels that are easy for staff and customers to use. New applications, such as telehealth and secure text messaging, have changed how healthcare communicates and consumers are demanding that immediate, convenient engagement.
Vince Vickers, KPMG
HIMSS19 seemed to have the most decision makers at the conference in five-plus years when a lot of healthcare organizations were still looking at implementing electronic health records. We might be ready for another wave of healthcare IT investment after healthcare organizations digested those investments made in electronic health records. The key is now around optimizing EHRs – interoperability, improving ease of use, enhancing analytics — or dedicating resources to enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to make themselves more efficient in the back office. We’re also seeing healthcare organizations position themselves to be more consumer-oriented, partly to address new entries from some of the tech companies, such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and a multitude of others, that wanted to make a big splash at HIMSS.
Simon Clephan, IGEL
Top of mind at HIMSS19 was the topic of how digital workspaces can improve patient care. Today’s healthcare professionals require faster access to patient data – whether in a clinic, at a kiosk or moving between provider sites in a large health system complex. While this data is necessary to deliver the best care, it must also be secure. One of the best ways to do this is through VDI (Citrix or VMware) where no data is stored locally and with a Linux-based endpoint. Linux on the endpoint is superior to Windows since it’s generally faster and highly resistant to viruses and other malware.
David Niewolny, RTI
HIMSS19 brought validation to the fact that healthcare is beginning to accelerate the adoption of advanced technology. Themes of big data, cloud and AI were prevalent throughout the show floor, the educational sessions and the cocktail hours. And for the first time, it felt real. There were actual products utilizing big data, cloud, edge analytics and AI being shown to solve true clinical and operational problems. Though it will take years to fully realize the benefits of a fully connected healthcare ecosystem, 2019 will be remembered as the year the Internet of Medical Things became real.
Kerry Martin, VitalWare
Hospital charge masters aren’t just for finance anymore. As of January 1, hospitals must post a list of their standard charges in a machine-readable format on their website and update the information at least once a year. A clean charge master is still key to ensuring accurate and full reimbursement, however, it’s also becoming a way to communicate with your patients. CMS is just beginning down this path, and while the new rule might not paint a clear picture of a patient’s out-of-pocket costs, it is the first of what will likely be many more steps focused around consumer price transparency.
Susan M. Reese, DNP, MBA, RN, CPHIMS, Kronos Incorporated
HIMSS19 drove considerable momentum for trending topics like the rise of consumerism in healthcare, and the collaborative nature of technology integrations. On the topic of consumerism, HIMSS19 opened our eyes to how changing models of care delivery and disruptive technologies are evolving the patient experience – a.k.a. the customer experience – by making technology more intuitive and accessible for consumers worldwide. Secondly, integrations emerged as the lifeblood of the healthcare industry, with healthcare technology vendors facing increasing demand for innovative solutions, product extensions, and real-time integrations that can seamlessly connect business applications and fully support natural workflows.
Charles Aunger, Health2047
Security awareness is on the rise in every area of healthcare, not just data. Healthcare organizations that lack the technology and manpower to put the necessary securities in place need to partner with the right organizations in order to keep up. Artificial Intelligence is not a standalone solution. It holds promise for building technologies and tools, but as of now AI’s ROI is found in the back office. Instead of transforming patient care, its current focus is on workforce optimization. The patient and the care team should not be seen as two separate entities. Patients must take a central role in driving their own care.
Chrissa McFarlane, Patientory
This year HiMSS19 was focused more on global health, as well as emerging technologies and its application to health IT. It also had an emphasis on technology, such as artificial intelligence and the rise of the machine, artificial technology and human machine dyad, as well as the value of blockchain and how it’s going to evolve healthcare IT. The value of blockchain realized the need for more collaboration from larger companies that aren’t currently working together and tackling the first phase of supply chain management and moving on that towards a more complex integration (with Private health information) in the next three to five years.
Gary Nelson, Schellman & Company
HIMSS19, like every other year, covers a vast array of healthcare information areas, but the three key takeaways that seemed to span across all facets of healthcare were interoperability, cybersecurity, and blockchain. Whether an attendee was focused on patient care, revenue cycle management, information security or HIE, those three topics seems to take precedent in conversations and general concerns. It was interesting to attend various forums, use case discussions, and sessions to learn that the entire healthcare community had the same shared focuses.
John Beck, NextGen Healthcare
I am encouraged to see HIMSS re-emerging as a high-value platform to showcase both steadfast and emerging HIT capabilities in the post-meaningful use era. At HIMSS 2019, we saw appropriately healthy interest in clinical workflows, usability, mobile, population health, interoperability and automation, as well as real innovation in patient engagement. For healthcare leaders the smoke has cleared, and we see progressive groups preparing to place technology bets.
Alexandre Theoharidis, Acuity Link
At this year’s HIMSS19, conversations with hospitals and health systems continued to reinforce the critical need for healthcare organizations to better streamline their patient flow. This can be achieved by aligning the timing of patient appointments/admissions and discharges with the arrival of the medical transport, in turn resulting in better optimized workflows and ultimately, a clearer view into the movement of patients. The end result is improved patient care and experience accomplished through shortened discharge times due to minimized bottlenecks in patient movement.
Lucienne M. Ide, M.D., Ph.D., Rimidi
What I noticed was a key takeaway from HIMSS 2019 is that despite advances in interoperability and no shortage of innovation, there is still a lot of friction bringing new technology into healthcare systems. Innovators are looking for more streamlined processes when it comes to solution selection, contracting and security reviews. The EHR battle is over, and there will be little churn at this point. Instead, health systems will be looking to leverage what they’ve already bought for more value. Analytics and user experience will be owned by new entrants who provide visually intuitive, actionable data on the EHR platforms.
Chris Foster, The Sextant Group
HIMSS19 covered a variety of leading topics in healthcare technology, but perhaps the most overwhelming topic was data (lots of it) and how to manage this overwhelming amount of data with analytics and artificial intelligence. Healthcare providers are capturing more data than ever; however, the challenge now becomes how to prioritize this data, ensure it is high quality, and how to utilize it for more enhanced patient care and improved workflows. Artificial intelligence is at its infancy, and while the big picture is appealing, the small and boring details need to be sorted out first.
Lonnie Rae, Medal
One of the biggest takeaways from HIMSS19 was the emphasis on interoperability and need for better access to a patient’s health data. Many EHR providers and health IT vendors – Medal included – announced plans and solutions to help use fragmented patient health data, and present it to healthcare providers in a timely and meaningful way. Moreover, the ONC unveiled its information blocking rule, which aims at boosting interoperability to achieve the same goal. News and conversations at HIMSS made it obvious that there is a need for longitudinal patient records that aggregate data from multiple sources, and give that data purpose.
Rick Halton, Lumeon
Much like population health and patient engagement were buzzwords at past conferences, HIMSS19 was all about AI and blockchain. However, it was difficult to discern use cases, as they seemed ubiquitous and over-used. What I found particularly notable was seeing more traction for and recognition of care pathway management as an approach to streamline care delivery for each patient by breaking down the siloes of fragmented care. This approach offers the benefit of truly measurable outcomes, where buzzwords can still only offer vague promises for transforming care. I’m sure we will see more of this at HIMSS20.
Vidya Murthy, MedCrypt
From the opening remarks around value-based care via transparency, to individual talks where AI strategies were detailed, a willingness to change was thematically consistent. It was heart-warming to see an entire section dedicated to cybersecurity at HIMSS, albeit in the far corner. The challenge I faced as I walked across the rest of the convention is that cybersecurity was positioned as a compliance tool. Many shared cybersecurity concerns but focused on HIPAA/privacy or employee training/awareness. Last week taught me that cybersecurity is not yet perceived as a device-centric patient safety concern by the majority of attendees — a crucial concept that must be adopted to foster the advancement of cybersecurity in healthcare.
Kali Durgampudi, Greenway Health
As the healthcare market continues to shift to value-based care, it’s crucial the industry stays ahead of the complex and evolving regulatory environment while supporting enhanced care for a better patient experience. The need for this balance was evident during HIMSS19. But just how can the industry accomplish this? Through better innovation and interoperability. Delivering state-of-the-art technologies to healthcare providers can help them maintain a thriving practice that offers exceptional patient care. To meet this demand, health IT vendors must be forward thinking, nimble, and capable of delivering innovative and interoperable solutions and services that meet providers’ needs now and in the future.”
Michael Doyle, COTA, Inc.
Moving away from trends seen in previous years, there was a noticeable shift in the tone of HIMSS19 from EMR vendors stockpiling data to companies working with and finding the value of data within the EMRs. Companies that are positioned to take advantage of data and use it in a meaningful way are poised to grow and make a difference at the point of care. This was emphasized over and over through the featured panels and excitement from attendees around vendors looking to organize and uncover the meaning behind existing data sources.
Sanjeev Agrawal, LeanTaaS
AI/ML continued to be a significant point of emphasis at HIMSS, primarily in service of improving clinical outcomes. For the first time, though, we heard how health systems like MultiCare Health in Tacoma, Washington, and Saint Peter’s University Health System in New Brunswick, New Jersey, have deployed AI/ML-based solutions to improve the operational performance of clinics, operating rooms, and infusion centers. Increasingly, health systems are discovering the power of data-driven, objective measures to challenge long-standing policies and practices like OR block scheduling to improve accessibility, accountability and visibility into their operations.
Sunnie Southern, Onix
As witnessed at HIMSS19, the cloud is gaining significant traction in healthcare, and a one-size”/“one-configuration deployment model isn’t the answer. Healthcare organizations need to create a roadmap to the cloud, including exploring hybrid- or multi-cloud solutions. The most innovative organizations are developing cloud strategies that address their key stakeholders’ needs and align with business objectives and budgets. The most strategic ones are thinking about their data’s value and how they can turn it into insights that inform business today and in the future. This includes investigating the role that advanced analytics like artificial intelligence and machine learning will play in their strategy.
Chris Voigt, Privia Health
Out of everything that I took in, one observation stood out in particular. Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), spoke this year as well as last. In 2018, she remarked that using fax machines for healthcare transactions should be phased out. This year, she called for a wholesale push for interoperability that would give payers and providers instant, accurate and complete access to patients’ electronic health records, often referred to as the “Blue Button” app. This digital revolution would create health records at birth that include every appointment, test, diagnosis and data from the Internet of Healthcare Things devices into a record, which could be blockchain-enabled to ensure accuracy and security. If you ask me, that’s like graduating from a foot-powered Flintstone’s car to a Lamborghini over the course of one year. How did we make such a leap from literally cutting the cable on fax machines to a wholesale, easy-to-use, innovative concept?
Patrick Fenningham, EIR Healthcare
This was the first year I attended HIMSS in about five years. From my perspective the key takeaway was the evolution and strong commercialization of real-time location services, RTLS, in the hospitals. I saw a healthy amount of large and small sized companies diving into this space with some very exciting technology. The industry has finally established a strong connection between technology integrating with infrastructure. Over the last few years the advancements of technology in the healthcare space were app driven but now we are starting to see an inclusion of the physical space and equipment which will only continue to ease clinical workflows and enhance the patient experience.