Hanging Out at HIMSS
Here in Orlando amidst the palms and petunias, the artistry of design shakes hands with the science of innovation … welcome to the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society’s Annual meeting, aka HIMSS 2019. From this meeting of healthcare’s best and brightest, I will highlight some of the most interesting and compelling observations and takeaways, especially amidst the backdrop that is a rapidly changing technology landscape.
With 50,000 attendees and 1,500 vendors and sponsors, the annual HIMSS pilgrimage remains one of the largest healthcare-focused events in the world. Fortunately, Unisys is present in force – we have representatives from four divisions: Life Sciences & Healthcare, Security, Stealth and Federal.
Chiming in from CHIME
Prior to the official HIMSS kickoff, I attended the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives CIO Forum. CHIME is a related association made up of the CIOs of major healthcare agencies within the US and Canada. During the event, CHIME announced the creation of a new European subsidiary, based out of the UK, with additional regions such as APAC set to follow.
One prevalent theme from the CIO Forum was that CHIME needs to do more to facilitate the adoption of new and emerging technologies. Several CIOs I spoke to said they thought CHIME does a good job of educating the members about technology and public policies that affect the Healthcare IT field. As I saw myself, talks often portrayed idealized “end-states” showcasing the use of such emerging technologies as enhanced, intelligent security protections, healthcare analytics for social determinants of health, and cloud-based collaborative systems used in reducing the burdens of revenue cycle management. However, as many members relayed, there remains a strong desire to receive more detailed, practical, tactical means with which to access and secure these technologies. This is a particularly sore spot with small and medium healthcare facilities that, on one hand, need to innovate to remain in-region competitive yet on the other, need to curb costs and rationalize expenses to meaningful increase ROI.
Interestingly, I heard many CIOs wonder out loud whether this is something vendors in general might be willing to provide more of – specifically, true industry leadership and guidance … not merely about their own products, applications, and services, but more consultancy surrounding phased tech roll-outs that would provide the necessary competitive skills yet not break their banks. Perceptually, there appears to be quite a gap here, within healthcare IT.
Equating Equality vs. Equity
Another key theme running throughout the CIO meeting was on how to use technology to change the distribution of services to create a more efficient healthcare system. Currently means of delivery focus on providing equal services to all, with little to no regard as to direct need. In the modern model, certain services might be provided to members unnecessarily, while for others, these services might be lacking. What’s needed is a system of healthcare that provides only what is necessary at the time and place, and for the patient for which that specific service is required. Doing this in a meaningful and cost-effective way demands the development and use of deep analytical models to monitor, manage, and predict levels of need on a per patient basis. While work remains to be done here, I observed several hospital groups and some young companies, including a client we are supporting in this area, developing deep learning algorithms in an attempt to fulfill this pressing need.
Assessing Advanced Analytics
Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) is but one type of data – combined with typical patient records – that could be used to develop greater “contexts of need.” As healthcare providers begin to adopt value-based models and move away from fee-for-service policies and processes, those “human” contexts surrounding the patient – where they live, what they do, where they have traveled, who they know and so forth – will become a greater tapestry upon which a wholistic, probabilistic picture of potential health outcomes are woven. In an ideal state, much like how clinical data used to determine pharmacological efficacy and safety, these outcomes could one day provide a patient with a working multidimensional “cone” in which changes in life behaviors and conditions would be used to assess the effects upon specific etiological risks.
In short, healthcare IT continue to move forward at a greater pace each year. Despite a clearer understanding of what uses emerging technologies can bring, technology access and subsequent utility continues to be a real challenge for many. Going forward, it will be very important for healthcare supporters like Unisys to work hand in hand with professional societies like CHIME and HIMSS to flatten the playing field and make such technologies more readily affordable and accessible.
“Huge tech companies are taking larger roles in health care in ways that are reflected at the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society’s annual meeting, with Google executives slated for at least 20 presentations and panels. “We’ve reached this inflection point where in the next 12 to 24 months, we’ll get out of the early-adopter cycle and start to see tech move more into the mainstream in health care.”
– Ric Sinclair. Chief Product Officer, Waystar