The 9 Hot Topics of HIMSS19

After making a career of helping provider organizations exchange and analyze data to improve patient and clinician satisfaction, it was affirming to see those themes front and center as the “Champions of Health” convened near the happiest place on earth last week. The annual pilgrimage of 55,000 HIT professionals facilitated the continued discussion on the hot topics of patient experience, interoperability, data analytics / artificial intelligence, mobile, and telehealth as well as the perennial foundational elements of healthcare technology – EHR, ERP, CRM and security.

Here are our team’s top takeaways from HIMSS19:

1. Interoperability: Regulations Rule

Before the conference even started, the buzz at CHIME centered on HHS’ recently released “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Interoperability.” The rule promotes seamless and simple integration intended to foster the development of information exchange, the use of APIs (particularly FHIR), enhanced patient matching, and the removal of information blockers (e.g., charging patients to access their own information). There is sure to be lots of interpretation and rebuttal around who’s paying for what and how to play in the market over the months ahead especially with many vendors still stressing point solutions in congested IT environments.

2. The Patient is King

By far the one topic our team encountered everywhere we went with nearly everyone we spoke with… Patient Experience. The industry is focused on how to attract, retain and engage their audience. With scope ranging from self-scheduling (enhanced portals) to patient access (mobile to wayfinding to telehealth) to revenue cycle (single bill, online payments) to self-reporting (wearables), the potential solutions are bountiful – and overwhelming.

The conference featured MANY wonderful sessions on this topic almost all of which relayed quality, cost and satisfaction improvements when putting the patient first. One highlighted streamlining visit types so patient self-select the right appointment via the portal. Streamlining physician schedules made it easier for the patient, for external referrals, for department crossscheduling, for wait listing thereby improving patient satisfaction and financial metrics. My favorite session though was the use of virtual reality to share the upcoming surgical experience for brain surgery patients – an easy, intuitive way of reducing uncertainty, providing clinical confidence, and increasing patient retention tenfold.

3. Leveraging Data Yields Results

Organizations are making some headway in using their data to understand and drive their decisions. But there’s still a long way to go – and many ways to leverage to get there. Many analytics presentations referenced specific insight leading to improvements in clinical, financial and operational outcomes. And it’s not just the big boys looking for insight. FQHCs are super keen to get more out of their patient data; many with initiatives to unlock the potential for their population health programs. One interesting trend: more examples of provider / payer collaboration to share facilitate better access to claims and other data to optimize investment.

More so, CHIME and keynote speakers highlighted the impact of social determinants of health (SDoH) on outcomes and in predicting population health. References were plentiful about unconventional players (Amazon, Apple, Google) making their play in the healthcare market based on understanding the power of this information and using it.

Blockchain remained near the top the buzzword list with organizations like Sentara using it to catalog, identify, and map all their data handshakes. It’s exciting to see the technology help them understand the dynamics within their own data sets, and then apply that knowledge to better secure and optimize data flows.

In the category of the future is today, Neil Jacobstein’s CHIME presentation highlighted the positive impact of Artificial Intelligence and several HIMSS presentations showcased the benefits of Machine Learning and the advancements in Natural Language Processing (NLP). That said, the general feel from the exhibit hall was AI / ML / NLP are still mystical; with more success stories emerging and the variety of developers focused on these technologies, we may start to see these tools start to normalize.

4. One Small Step… to Innovation

The market is not at a loss for “shiny objects”. While digital solutions are plentiful, organizations are realizing they cannot and should not do it all. Renewed focus in presentations is on incrementally reusing and re-thinking processes and technologies in new – innovative – ways to enable better care of patients. There is a growing field of platforms and integrators to help unify and simplify the end user (patient, clinician, team member) experience and allow organizations to leverage and extend their current products. 5. Seeking Efficacy IT teams continue to seek ways to improve their margins with enhanced effectiveness and efficiency. As such, services that take the brunt of onerous activity are gaining traction.

First and foremost, the Cloud is drawing a crowd. More and more providers are getting out of the data center and data storage game. The race is on to migrate hardware, data and applications to the cloud and the big vendor – AWS, Microsoft and Google – as well as a myriad of smaller ones, are scrambling for position.

Similarly, IT teams are leveraging Managed Services to take on the burden of first and second-tier help desk support for internal users as well as the outward facing patient portal support. 6. Cyber Security has arrived The dust seems to have settled and security has finally transitioned to become the norm. Organizations understand this is as critical a part of business as having an EHR and are consistently looking for ways to mitigate risk and manage crucial PHI requirements.

7. Providers making software work for other providers

Among the plethora of vendors, several health systems had their own booths hawking products on the exhibit floor. We overheard talk of providers – as those closer to the patient – “taking back control of the wheel” rather than letting vendors dictate what technology they need. Systems are creating co-development roles with key vendors to quickly develop, trial, and test new products, which can then be commercialized (and spun off as a revenue generating joint venture.) What used to be the unusual activity for a few unique systems, the space for productizing experience and/or environment seems to be getting crowded.

8. EHR – check. Now what?

Historically, HIT has been concentrated on deploying electronic health records. With that activity complete and being optimized, the next technology steps for organizations include Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). There is a swirl of activity around ERP and CRM implementations in an effort to get the trifecta of insight and capabilities.

9. Keeping it real. And meaningful.

I’ve often seen the happy-go-lucky sorts wearing the #pinksocks with mustaches and wondered of the motivation. I got to meet a few last week and learned of their “community united in changing the world from the ground up, with heart speak, hugs, and gifting.” Their #pinksocks movement began in healthcare with the intent of reminding us all to use technology “to help us do the things that we all want – to connect with each other at a human level, to share in each other’s stories with compassion and empathy, and to work together as one.” With all the hoopla of bringing together an international community of techies to talk about the challenges and opportunities with technology, I love my #pinksocks reminder of why we got into this business in the first place – to help, to connect, to heal and keep well.

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