Just as the world is rebooting as the COVID cloud perceptually passes, HIMSS23 shows that the health IT community has returned with a passion for learning what’s just around the corner and a practical mindset for maximizing investments in infrastructure to improve care and reduce cost.
The McCormick Conference Center has enthusiastic attendees, filling session rooms and the exhibit hall. But the meeting’s focus and content – along with the recognition that the pandemic and economy require new thinking and approaches to health information and health-tech innovation. What HIMSS lacks in meeting SWAG, it more than makes up for in nuts-and-bolts content on integrating bold ideas and new inventions into the healthcare system. That’s its differentiator in a sector that seems to be adding more and more gatherings.
SESSION ROOMS ARE FILLED – WHY? ATTENDEES SEEK TO LEARN AND APPLY!
How does HIMSS plan its content sessions – which are peer-review selected – through the tireless work of its staff and volunteers who pour over countless (and largely excellent) submissions to drill down to the hundreds that reach the program. Despite the number of concurrent sessions, the rooms are packed, reinforcing why people come to HIMSS23 – to listen and learn!
PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS!
For years, people in the health sector have talked about its growing fragmentation. As fast as companies invent new information systems and technologies, new problems arise with integration and security. The puzzle pieces are proliferating but have yet to bring the ecosystem closer. Health professional burnout has been the constant refrain from physicians and the COVID staff drop-out rate has been as alarming as the alert bells pinging at nursing stations.
The tone and content at HIMSS23 reflected the need to stop concentrating on the problems and new ideas and center around solutions. Keynotes such as Tom Lawry, a long-time Microsoft AI leader and now a “recovering alum,” and John Whyte, MD, chief medical officer of WebMD, led and moderated sessions that shifted to the practical use of information in the care setting. Not new ideas but how to better leverage and apply tools to improve workflow and patient care.
The meeting was also more global in perspective. For example, Whyte’s session on the Quest for the Perfect Healthcare System – How Do We Get There? Wisely compared the UK’s favored National Health System to the “highly remunerated USA system and everything in between.” There is a hunger to use HIMSS as a pathway to better (best is far off) practices. At the same time, Lawry brought leading minds in AI together from health systems that employ the tool to reach patients most at risk and shift their attention from sick care to deploying preventive health care.
THE HIMSS EXHIBIT FLOOR FOCUSES ON PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS
The exhibit floor has been packed wall-to-wall with booths that are as educational as the sessions themselves. Many of the breaking ideas in the news – some that justifiably frighten society, such as AI and ChatGPT – showed their more practical, life-saving side. While health and home and wearables that collect and transmit personal information become the new doctor’s black bag, some companies exhibiting are seeking to resolve problems that should keep us up at night, such as cybersecurity and data protection.
Here are some of the hundreds of companies exhibiting that caught my eye. Others should explore what others in the sectors are doing to make new ideas and inventions into practical (and necessary) tools to leverage current systems.
FORGET THE AI AND CHATGPT BUZZ – COMPANIES ARE DELIVERING SOLUTIONS NOW
Health at home is less expensive and preferred. But can it work with people with more serious medical needs? ATLASense provides ICU-level monitoring in the home; it is wireless and simulates the predictive capabilities of an attentive onsite nurse. Using 15 sensors and measuring 50 biomarkers, it’s a small, wearable medical device that is reusable. The data flow to health professionals overseeing care offers a pathway to send people from acute care to a place that supports healing.
Patients must be part of the care conversation. That has long been the mantra of the patent community and has recently been acknowledged by drug development and payer systems. Belong Life is among the world’s more extensive patient navigation and social networks for cancer and multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. The platform is used by nearly 1 in 10 cancer patients and 1 in 5 MS patients.
What’s new is its AI Mentor and ChatGPT patient system. The company – driven by compassion and confidentiality – has a model that makes a virtual community practical for people with these serious health concerns. With this new AI effort, Contract Research Organizations and their pharma sponsors should take note of a pathway to better understand what people need and want.
The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) describes the network of physical objects — “medical things”— embedded with sensors, software and other technologies. Today, devices are found within 75% of connected assets in hospital systems. These technologies are a boost to patient convenience and provider care. And they pose a great cybersecurity danger – a real medical risk to patients. Hospitals are notoriously vulnerable to hacking.
IoMT is an easy target for cyber attackers and is among the more worrisome unaddressed cybersecurity risks to medical networks. Cylera is becoming a global go-to partner to guard against these clear and present dangers using forms of AI and to create a digital twin that assesses IoMT devices to remediate discovered risks.
Health systems are experiencing a challenging financial year – even shuttering doors in remote areas where care is desperately needed. Predictions are that only “must-have” technologies will be considered going forward. Given this backdrop, HIMSS23 conversations focused on technologies that automate existing manual processes to reduce costs.
This is especially important in revenue cycle management, where providers experience staff shortages and shrinking margins. FinThrive shows health system CIOs the pathways to invest in intelligent, integrated technologies that automate revenue cycle operations. The company connects the revenue cycle teams through a SaaS platform to make collaborative decisions.
Hospital at home is the fastest-growing US care pathway. Keeping people at home after discharge is the desired outcome. Putting that into practice is the challenge. Honeywell is taking a practical approach to how AI can move health systems from patient vitals data collection to smarter, faster clinical decision-making. Here is a real-time monitoring system that captures patients’ vital signs within a hospital and remotely. The “Real-Time Health System” (RTHS) uses a wireless QR code skin patch for real-time monitoring. The patch connects to an intelligent app and caregivers receive real-time alerts of significant patient status changes. Along with propping up pillows and tracking med times, home caregivers become partners in care delivery and people can heal at home safely.
Among the more challenging health intersections is between providers and payers. The tussle for reimbursement requests is friction, repetitive work and outdated workflow. MRO is improving the complex relationship between providers and payers through more thoughtful patient information and clinical data exchange. Streamlining back-end workflows between providers and payers is a data handshake between financial decision-makers to improve interoperability and intelligent solutions to reduce provider-payer friction.
The real-time sharing of patient insights is a constant HIMSS23 call to action. The system collects volumes of information. But “after the fact” analysis means the barn gate on a patient’s care closes by the time the data are assessed. Effective data-driven care coordination is mission-critical for providers and health plans as they shift to value-based programs. PointClickCare seeks to facilitate better care by tapping one of the most underutilized and required assets – collaboration.
In connecting data from more than 27,000 long-term and post-acute care providers, more than 2,800 hospitals and 2,000 ambulatory clinics, every major health plan across the US, and some 75 state and government agencies, this is an example of how information can piece together the fragmented health ecosystem.
Interoperability remains a distant desire. SEQSTER, a pioneer in patient-centric healthcare data technology and patient management, announced its partnership with CLEAR, the secure identity platform to provide patients with Individual Access Services. Announced during HIMSS23, the platform enables consumers to confirm their identities, access medical records and safely share them with various clinical trial research organizations within the SEQSTER Operating System for healthcare.
Health information for consumers and providers remains key to people’s health and wellbeing. Front and center on the exhibit floor is WebMD. The company used HIMSS23 to launch WebMD Ignite offering a comprehensive suite of healthcare solutions to kickstart healthcare organizations’ efforts to improve engagement and fuel growth through every stage of the healthcare journey, from discovery to recovery. The solutions are the culmination of curated acquisitions from leading healthcare companies within the WebMD Health Network – including WebMD Provider Services, Krames, Mercury Healthcare, and The Wellness Network.
THE POWER OF NOW
The combination of COVID, recognizing that the system is awash in data and spiraling health costs, and looming cyber risks that make health data vulnerable, is shifting business and medical leaders to advocate for immediate solutions.
HIMSS23 continues to be the meeting ground for government officials, mega-companies, and start-ups to see each other more as collaborative partners than competitors in the system’s improvement. What was historically the playground of ideas and inventions has transformed into the roll-up-the-sleeves community. The conversations have been less about the system’s shortfalls and more about fixes that improve access, reimbursement and keeping people out of the hospital or getting them home faster.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the refrain that the consumer is the customer. That’s not the case. The system itself remains the primary focus of the industry. The outcome of a viable, more accessible health system that uses the information to perform cost-effectively will benefit the ecosystem – including the people that seek healing.