Health IT at HIMSS 2019: 4 Key Takeaways

That’s a Wrap on HIMSS 2019

Our staff who attended HIMSS 2019 have returned and shared some of their “greatest hits.” This year’s theme was “Champions of Health Unite,” with more than 45,000 attendees convening in Orlando, Fla., from February 11 through 15. As one of the largest healthcare conferences of its kind in the world, with so many booths, panels, demos, and other presentations, it’s impossible for any one person — or even a team of people, as was the case for Bridge Connector this year — to take it all in.

Here are our team’s top four topics that generated the most “buzz,” setting the stage for more news to come in 2019 in each of these areas:

1, Making data more ‘actionable’

HIMSS CEO Hal Wolf described this year’s most noteworthy trend as “how do we actually grab hold of all this incredible information, the data that gets turned into information … to make better decisions in care.” While somewhat of a continuation from the 2018 conference, the conversation has even more-so moved from talking about technology in healthcare to the actual “use” of the information.

Funny enough, that’s what keeps us up at night at Bridge Connector, too — how can we best leverage our solutions to make healthcare data flow more freely, ultimately making that data more “actionable.”

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma in her remarks on Tuesday, doubled down on this idea when she said, “We will not stop until we ensure that patients will always be able to get their records, to utilize them, and share them as they wish. Not only for patient empowerment, but because the future of our healthcare system depends on it. For data is the fuel of healthcare innovation. Ultimately we all need to work together to drive the seamless flow of information across the healthcare system. … This is data and knowledge that can change the life of a patient or the trajectory of an unsustainable healthcare system. That’s the promise that lies within our data.”

2. SDoH Takes Center Stage

The idea of treating the whole patient has manifested itself in various ways in recent years as it relates to value-based care assessments and population health management advances, but according to Bridge Connector CTO Josh Douglas, it was all about how to better address patients’ “social determinants of health” (SDoH) — those non-clinical influencers that can affect a patient’s health beyond their provider’s four walls — at this year’s event.

“As one of the larger themes in Orlando, this one was among the most exciting to me because there has been such great progress in just the last year,” said Douglas. “Some real solutions have surfaced to address transportation needs for patients, which we’d already been hearing a lot about from Lyft and Uber. Not to mention, there are some innovative programs happening to address ‘food deserts,’ such as the one Blue Cross announced, and other novel approaches to address various other determinants. I think we’ll continue to see more companies who aren’t historically ‘healthcare’ companies coming in to the space. For one, because they see the value in working together to elevate the common good — it’s simply the right thing to do. But it also makes good business sense for the right combinations of partners who need to drive lower costs and improve patient outcomes.”

In the coming weeks after HIMSS 2019, Bridge Connector will launch its own product in the Salesforce AppExchange, which addresses SDoH — a “sneak peek” demo of which was presented live on Instagram Thursday.

3. Consumer Tech Solutions

Consumers have come to demand more in the way of tech solutions — expecting more out of the businesses, products, and services they engage with on a daily basis. And there’s no more exciting event for unveiling the latest tech gadgets than the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) each year in Las Vegas… except for maybe some of the new ideas we saw and heard about at HIMSS 2019 as well. Whether they’re powered by relatively low-cost sensors, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, or robots, the new frontier in healthcare consumer tech solutions and devices mainly revolves around these technologies.

From the organization that runs CES, Consumer Technology Association CEO Gary Shapiro discussed with Half Wolf on Tuesday how technology and consumerism can change our healthcare experience. According to Shapiro, some of the most promising, recent tech developments have been:

  • Voice as the “new medium” — voice detection is rapidly improving, and it’s not just in discrete devices anymore. It’s in television sets, computers, speakers, car computers, and we can ask questions while driving and receive answers. It’s a great way to learn and “stop fighting over questions at the dinner table,” Shapiro said, only partly in jest.
  • AI pervaded the CES show (and the HIMSS show by the way). And robotics is also growing very quickly, which is not only about AI but also the “physical structure” which will “keep people from doing some of the worst jobs in the world.”
  • “It’s not all about drugs,” said Shapiro. Increasingly, there are more FDA-approved devices you can wear to manage pain.
  • Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) as a means to train doctors. “Your first 10 surgeries, your success rate is really not that great … but becomes 10 percent better with every 10 surgeries you (perform).”
  • AR and VR in remote care, as another use case, “What do I do to change my wound?” “There’s an interesting mix of these technologies in telemedicine with someone coaching you, but also a visualization can be happening simultaneously,” Wolf added.
  • Focused ultrasound as an alternative to chemotherapy or radiation for cancer patients, with three FDA-approved treatments already available. While not without risk factors, it was described as an outpatient procedure — “one treatment and you’re done” — with a technology that is “getting better and better,” said Shapiro.
  • Relatively low-cost devices are emerging globally in under-developed countries to help with patient monitoring, to “save that two-day walk to the doctor.”

4. Strategic Partnerships to Accelerate Interoperability

There have been an almost overwhelming amount of technological “innovation” and “disruptors in the marketplace” happening in recent years — and not just limited to healthcare, with “more innovation happening in the next 10 years than happened in last 100,” according to CTA’s Shapiro. Aside from open APIs and FHIR, what could increase interoperability any more than strategic partnerships, with the significant acceleration they lend to shared learning?

In an interview with HIMSS TV about how to achieve interoperability, Cynthia Green-Edwards, Chief Compliance Officer at State of Michigan Department, HHS, said it poignantly: “We have been able to prove … we can work across disciplines and across health systems to change the culture from ‘not sharing for fear of competition,’ to ‘you can’t be competitive unless you are sharing and working together.’”

Big healthcare industry announcements are often reserved for “HIMSS Week” to make a big splash in conjunction with the event, and this year was no exception. Chief among these sorts of headlines, along with the typical product and policy updates, were more partnership announcements, with dozens announced each day of the conference.

Bridge Connector was honored to be among those headlines when we received a partner award from our largest CRM partner, Salesforce, on Tuesday evening. Silverline, PointClickCare, Accenture, and eMeds also shared the partner awards stage with us at the event.


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