For the first time since the pandemic, the energy at HIMSS was back with packed keynotes, crowded exhibit halls and, unfortunately, long lines for Ubers, shuttles and food. But despite the threat of newer conferences like HLTH and ViVE, HIMSS was alive and well in 2023.
We had a great few days at HIMSS – attending keynotes, walking the exhibit floor, meeting with customers, connecting with other vendors, going to receptions and doing our best to get a pulse on the latest in healthcare IT.
So, without further ado, here are the buzzwords and themes we noticed at HIMSS 2023. (Can’t get enough HIMSS? Check out the coverage from HIStalk – it never disappoints!).
Health that connects + tech that cares
Let’s start with the HIMSS 2023 theme: health that connects + tech that cares. It was described by the HIMSS CEO as an understanding that we’re all connected by our goals to improve health for everyone, everywhere by leveraging technical opportunities. There was a palpable energy at HIMSS, and we got the sense that people are truly bought into this common goal. And while we don’t all agree on how to get there, HIMSS is an opportunity to break down barriers and engage in an open dialogue in a way that’s just not possible without having everyone together at the same time and in the same place.
Health equity is a big, broad topic and while it’s important to talk about it at an aspirational level, we also need to focus on the executable elements of it in the short term. One area of health equity where there’s an opportunity to make an immediate impact is health information.
We participated in a number of positive conversations at HIMSS on behalf of AHIOS, the release of information industry association of which HealthMark’s CEO Bart Howe is president. AHIOS is a great example of vendors with competing solutions coming together to advance a greater mission around health information equity. A patient’s inability to access their medical records can have a significant negative impact on their treatment and overall outcomes, and AHIOS is breaking down barriers by providing a scalable model for delivering fast, secure and reliable access to patient health information to all patients. HIMSS was a fun opportunity to talk about this area of health equity where we’re actually making a difference.
Here I go again on my own…
Interoperability as a buzz word at HIMSS is nothing new. So why are we still talking about it, and what (if anything) has changed?
It’s easy to look at interoperability with a glass-half-empty outlook. We’ve been talking about interoperability for years, and yet we still struggle to connect disparate systems and data silos in a way that will have a meaningful impact on patients. As one of the speakers at Wednesday’s keynote said, “the U.S. healthcare system is not a system but a collection of systems.” It reminds us of the famous Whitesnake song lyric “here I go again on my own” – everyone has their own approach and therefore we’re still struggling as a group to move the ball forward.
Now for the glass-half-full view. There were some really interesting concepts at the Interoperability Showcase, where vendors worked together for months in advance to push the envelope and demonstrate new, innovative concepts for how to connect data and applications in a variety of patient-centric use cases. HIMSS provides the opportunity to break down walls and have an important dialogue as an industry about what is possible, and the Interoperability Showcase is a great example of that. One thing’s for sure, interoperability won’t get better if we don’t keep it in the spotlight and HIMSS does a good job keeping it front and center.
Lifetime Patient Health Record
Tell me more, tell me more
This one piqued our interest given HealthMark’s focus on the patient data and medical records space. There was a use case at the Interoperability Showcase that demonstrated how a patient could leverage an app to connect to their providers, their insurance (where claims data would be used to pull in diagnoses) and wearables, pulling the data into a centralized location where it could then be used to provide guidance, offer relevant clinical trials, etc.
While we were excited by the concept, the use case relied heavily on the patient to be invested enough to download and manage an app, connecting all the necessary data themselves. There is a great whitepaper that came out recently based on a roundtable of key healthcare IT stakeholders that addressed this very issue – our evolving ecosystem of digital health information threatens to place an enormous burden of responsibility onto both consumers (patients) and healthcare providers to understand and manage access to health data in the absence of sufficient privacy controls outside of HIPAA. This is a problem that we at HealthMark think about regularly, and an area where we would love to see more innovative ideas for improving access to health data while still keeping it secure from a growing number of threats.
Are you ready for it?
One speaker shared that AI hype cycles date all the way back to the 1950’s and that this is at least the fifth one. (It was interesting context at a time when it seems ChatGPT is taking over the world.) Views on this current cycle range from excited to terrified (the robots are coming for us!). But AI is definitely having a moment, and there is potential value to be had in a healthcare system that’s facing unprecedented staffing shortages while at the same time trying to expand care.
Settings of Care
Right care, right place, right time
There were a lot of conversations about shifting from the traditional settings of care (hospitals and clinics) to bringing care to people where they want it. Home health was a big focus – it’s the place where patients are the most comfortable and therefore have the best chance for improved outcomes. Pharmacy is also growing as a setting of care thanks to partnerships like VillageMD and Walgreens; most patients visit 35 times a year compared to just 4 times a year for traditional providers.
In Wednesday’s keynote about accelerated opportunities for care delivery, the president of Best Buy Health (yes, that Best Buy) talked about how they’re leveraging their vast logistical network and Geek Squad implementation model to expand into medical devices, shipping devices to patients’ homes then providing in-home setup to get them working and connected back to providers. At a recent pilot of the program, patient satisfaction scores were in the high 90s and readmission rates dropped to below 6%. Pretty impressive!
In that same panel, the CEO of HealthPartners, the largest consumer-governed nonprofit healthcare organization in the country, talked about moving towards a model where there’s no wrong front door to access care. If we rewire our system to focus on hand-offs between providers, she argued, it will transcend across all settings and truly give patients the right care at the right time in the right place.
HIMSS 2023: Final Thoughts
Our overall HIMSS takeaway is that we’re very excited about where HealthMark sits in the ecosystem of healthcare. The common thread among all of the themes above is patient data, and we are trusted stewards of access to information for millions of patients, a responsibility that we take very seriously.
One of our HIMSS attendees was our brand-new head of interoperability and innovation, Henry Archibong (formal announcement coming soon!). We are excited to lean even further into our role in expanding secure access to patient health data with Henry’s leadership.
If you’re passionate about healthcare IT, HIMSS is the place to be. You can’t deny the struggles we have as a U.S. healthcare system, but we left HIMSS with a passionate optimism that we have the right people asking the right questions to make a difference in improving patient outcomes through the intersection of healthcare and technology.