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Insights from HIMSS17: Industry Leaders Share Their Observations and Key Takeaways

February 26, 2017
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The HIMSS17 conference officially came to a close Thursday, and, once again, speakers, exhibitors and attendees all gathered, this time in Orlando, to discuss how health IT is enabling healthcare organizations to improve patient care and lower costs. There was a lot of discussion about the potential for emerging technologies—artificial intelligence and blockchain, just to name two—to ”change the game,” as IBM CEO Ginni Rometty mentioned in her keynote address on Monday. And, of course, there were plenty of conversations and presentations about the ongoing challenges that healthcare IT leaders face, whether related to federal policy or changing payment models and the increasing cybersecurity threats as well. During my four full days at the HIMSS17 Conference and Exhibition, I spoke to a number of industry stakeholders, both from the vendor side as well as the provider side, about health IT innovation, and they also shared their insights about this year’s conference from their specific perspectives, and with their particular priorities in mind.

Below are some of the interesting observations and takeaways that these industry thought leaders shared with me:

 

Hussein Syed, chief information security officer, RWJBarnabas Health (West Orange, N.J.):

“A good thing that I see at this year’s conference is that there is a lot of security technology vendors at the show. They [exhibitors] have all kinds of cool, newer technologies that are being built that they are bringing into the healthcare market. That’s something that is quite interesting to me, that they are making an effort to be here and talking not only to the IT people, but also more of the clinicians and more about medical data management.  I’m impressed by the innovation that’s taking place within the traditional vendors as well.”

Brian Levy, M.D., senior vice president, global operations, Health Language, at Wolters Kluwer Health:

“One of the themes we’re seeing at this show is the need to be interoperable. I think we’ve all come to realize that Meaningful Use was successful at adopting EMRs [electronic medical records], but not so successful at interoperability. IT achieved interoperability for interoperability’s sake, but nobody is really doing something with the data yet. That is what the industry is trying to move to. To actually be interoperable to receive the data and then do something; there is a need to do analytics, a need to do quality reporting and what you need to do for MIPS. It’s all about what you can do with the data.”

Manu Varma, business leader, hospital to home and Wellcentive, Philips (Boston):

“Up until the last few years at HIMSS, there is always two or three buzzwords in the industry and when you walk the show floor, it’s amazing as every vendor does all of those things. And how is that possible? I think this year, I do sense the buzzword frenzy is down. I see more complexity and complexity in the sense that people have unique different messages that they are talking about many different things and they are talking about real results more and people are talking about innovation more. Instead of just saying, ‘I also do patient engagement, I also do population health,’ or whatever the word of the day is. I see that as a positive sign because it shows that the industry is maturing. People are finding their strengths and finding their value proposition, and really focusing on that, instead of a vanilla market.”

Deb Dahl, vice president, patient care innovations, care management, Banner Health (Phoenix):

“I’m seeing similar themes [as Varma mentioned], but the difference in what the word ‘predictive analytics’ or ‘population health’ or ‘innovation’ means, is quite different from booth to booth. So, someone might be talking about innovation and for me that means ‘I’m doing process improvement’ and at the next booth, talking about innovation, and what they mean is ‘We’re working with our physicians to find really cool new tools and then help them get to market with a new surgical tool’ and then, at another booth, innovation is, ‘I’m interested in the care delivery, and how am I going to improve the clinical care continuum?’. So you have to get past the accelerated discovery words that we see right now, to what does that mean to you as a vendor or as a provider?”

Ed Ricks, CIO, Beaufort Memorial Hospital (Beaufort, S.C.) on what he is focusing on now:

“We’re looking at some direct-to-consumer things that help us to extend our reach. It’s not [an investment in] building bricks and mortar, as capital is hard to come by, but we still want to be able to reach people more frequently and more easily, and more conveniently for them. Anything that we can do to extend our reach through technology, if that’s the answer, we’re looking at. That’s a big priority for us. We’re working really hard on getting all of our information into one EMR. It’s not completely possible, but that’s a major effort for us. Those are two key initiatives right now.”

 

David Finn, health IT officer, Symantec (Houston, TX) on cybersecurity issues:

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