HIMSS is the seminal event in healthcare technology each year. This year it grew to 45,000 attendees and literally a mile of exhibit hall. We logged miles of walking in one day just to cover the exhibit floor, and still did not see it all. At this pivotal time in healthcare information technology, there were many important themes that were covered.
Quality and Patient Safety Outcomes
Quality and patient safety outcomes ranked as the top priority among HIMSS executives. Transitioning and adapting to MACRA is top-of-mind. Quality is supported by value-based care initiatives: precision medicine, population health (two ends of the spectrum!), patient care transition management, and data transparency. If we are going to be successful the technology needs to be easy-to-use and support these initiatives in an efficient manner. Even former CMS Administrator, Andy Slavitt, chastised technology vendors, saying more focus needs to be spent on ‘thrilling our users’.
Fee-for-service is still a driver in reimbursement. Advancing value-based care is a goal, but reality is that revenue cycle management is still a major focus. I attended a session presented by leaders from CMS title ‘The March to MACRA and beyond’, and their comment was that it’s not yet a march, more of a slow, careful walk. MACRA is a reality, it went into effect on January 1, 2017, yet most providers don’t understand the implications nor have they started reporting. It does seem to be here to stay, but in the meantime, providers are still ‘optimizing’ their reimbursement strategies.
One of healthcare’s biggest worries was notably a large part of the conference. Vendors and consultants feel the brunt of these efforts. An entire Cybersecurity Command Center was set up in the exhibit hall to highlight ongoing efforts, and we talked to a few vendors pioneering the blockchain space for healthcare.
Patient Experience and Participation in Care
A notable entry into the conference was Salesforce. From the freshness of their booth, to their product offering, they are a breath of fresh air and bring innovation to the healthcare sector. Their approach to building relationships between patients and care providers uses their vast experience in relationship management. Their systems integrate with EHRs and countless other data sources, and their tools all adapt to your organization.
Patient engagement leading to better outcomes
Technologies for patient engagement, after years of exploration, appear to be taking a more prominent role. As systems move towards an open architecture, vendors are taking the opportunity to leverage the data and build innovative tools. Precision medicine, remote monitoring, IoT integration, care coordination, and patient engagement are just some areas that are evolving, just as interoperability is starting to allow more adoption of API based solutions.
The Impact of AI on Healthcare
HIMSS featured a number of big data analytics shops, most prominently IBM Watson, the artificial intelligence system (AIS) known best for success on Jeopardy! IBM has been working diligently to embed Watson in the healthcare process. They have met with some successes, however, notable was the announcement just before HIMSS that MD Anderson was dropping their Watson project.
Interoperability between and with EHRs and other technology
Increasingly, the market in healthcare consists of health systems, groups of hospitals, physicians and other providers, like nursing homes, seeking to provide healthcare throughout patients’ lives, not just in the four walls of the hospital. Interoperability is still a challenge in healthcare. In some arenas, the technology is not available, in others, the vendors want to maintain control for competitive advantage. We still, after years of work, do not have a system where data is accessible by all who need it to provide better health outcome. Shame on us!
It’s great to see the state of the healthcare-technology complex. There were no big ‘aha’s’, but there does seem to be an ongoing evolution in the market.