Put 45,000 attendees and more than 1,300 vendors in one conference center, leave to argue, discuss and promote for a week and what you get is the gargatum annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference.
Tons of information emerged from the week-long conference held in Orlando this year. Among the countless sessions, presentations and buzz on the showfloor, three dominant themes surfaced that are going to continue shaping the healthcare industry in the year (and years) to come: data and digitization in healthcare, interoperability and delivery to patients.
Data and digitization in healthcare
While data and digitization is not new, there’s been a staggering upsurge in the number of institutions going digital over the last ten years. Ninety-seven percent of hospitals are now run digitally while EHR use is hovering at the 87% rate, up from 30% just a decade ago.
But with progress comes obsoletion and the first generation of digital tools – the old-style server-based systems – are being overthrown for cloud-based systems. So much so, that it’s at the state that platforms have to run in the cloud or people won’t even consider using them.
With all the advancements in the EHR scene, some of these hospitals and medical practices are now using their second or even third EHR. But as their needs progress and evolve, many of these organizations have come to the realization that EHRs cannot fulfill all their workflow needs. Instead, these organizations are turning to other third party add-on tools to fill the gaps and perform these functions.
Which sounds great. However, it’s not all good news. Interfacing with third party tools (or any other systems for that matter) has become a major hurdle for healthcare. And there were extensive discussions around this topic at HIMSS.
Interoperability in Healthcare
Increased interoperability is one of the biggest requests from physicians these days, which is hardly surprising given how the healthcare industry is lagging behind plenty of other industries when it comes to different systems being able to communicate with each other.
While there are a few players in the game, the healthcare industry is still majorly losing the interoperability game. One thing most people agree on is that not enough thought went into making interoperability a prime consideration when developing new tools and systems. As a result, the industry is paying the price of trying to solve the problem retroactively, with pretty poor results.
Putting the patient first – at last?
Speaking of lagging behind, another takeaway from HIMSS 2019 was how much work the industry still has to do in terms of putting the patient (“the consumer”) in control of their data.
These consumers want to be more involved in their care, which means making it possible for them to communicate more easily with their clinicians, have access to their data and also easier-to-understand billing statements.
Oh, and, reasonably, they want it to be cheaper.
This is already happening in some areas. For example, telehealth is helping to make access to quality healthcare more readily available and is increasingly being used by surgeons for routine appointments. This saves everyone time and, in some cases, money. Look for it to become more commonplace in the near future.
With an increased reliance on digital and tech services, security and privacy concerns are growing. And for good reason since many organizations have been hacked, leaving patient data vulnerable to attack and misuse.
The HIMSS annual Cybersecurity survey, which was released at the conference, revealed that cybersecurity, privacy and security risks are among providers top information technology challenges in 2019. Chillingly, the survey revealed that, “A pattern of cybersecurity threats and experiences is discernible across US healthcare organizations.”
To counter this, an increasing number of healthcare organizations are having to spend more of their IT budgets on cybersecurity.
New kids on the block
Not so new in other industries anymore, Blockchain is now emerging in healthcare. It’s been deemed very suitable for health record keeping since unlike “traditional” databases, a blockchain is decentralized and once a transaction has been recorded, it cannot be changed or undone, making it ideal for record keeping.
Not surprisingly, there are currently early use cases and testing in progress to see if blockchain will be a viable technology for securely aggregating health records and billing data. There are many who think it will.
A report by Global Market Insights, Inc. estimates that use of blockchain technology by healthcare providers will grow by 65.6% by 2025. “Growing medical and healthcare data breaches will result in boosting the demand and adoption rate of blockchain technology by healthcare facilities and providers in the upcoming years.”
One thing is very clear from HIMSS, the way the medical industry deals with data and its approach to sharing information with patients appears to be at a turning point. The fact that CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) has hired its first chief healthcare informatics officer to lead the government’s interoperability strategy is certainly a push in the right direction. This, coupled with a recently released proposal from HHS designed to give government health plan members control over their health information by as soon as next year means that by HIMSS 2020, we could already be seeing some big changes.