Last week, the healthcare IT community converged upon Orlando, Florida for the 2019 edition of the annual HIMSS conference.  The conference has had a heavy focus on the latest innovations in healthcare technology, and this year was not different, with more than 1,300 exhibitors, like Trapollo and other connected health innovators focusing on the latest connected health technologies, evolving use cases, regulation, and of course, the power of positive experiences to help drive growth and address the challenges facing the healthcare systems.

Those challenges include an aging population, a greater chronic disease burden, geographic barriers to care, lack of actionable intelligence, increasing costs, a shortage of healthcare professionals, and an increased consumer demand for more, faster, and better care.

That’s a lot to overcome, and as HIMSS CEO Hal Wolf noted, in order to accomplish such a feat, “Healthcare needs a renaissance, it needs to drive, to reform.”  That really what this year’s HIMSS conference was about and its stated theme, “Champions of Health Unite,” delivers a multi-faceted message about the healthcare vendors, providers, and payers that all were part of the event.  The industry as a whole must become more unified and connected in order to overcome the challenges, and those that are already seeing successes must become true champions and promote their success to their peers.

Here are a few of the key topics that were part of HIMSS 2019.

Interoperability

Perhaps the greatest overarching topic at HIMSS 2019 was the concept of interoperability.  Coinciding with the opening of the conference, the ONC and CMS released new proposed rules around patient data.  The specifications are specifically designed to drive interoperability and support the exchange of patient data for better treatment decisions, increased innovation, and to give patients more control over their own data.

As HIMSS Chief Technology and Innovation Officer Steve Wretling explained, “The challenge with data is it’s all over the place – there are silos of data all over the health system.  The future of digital medicine is opening up that data.”

While some providers have doubts over specific parts of the proposal, the industry at large has been in need of regulation around data interoperability in order to be able to drive the kind of collaboration between providers and systems connected health is intended to support.

Artificial Intelligence

There’s no question artificial intelligence, which is already part of our daily lives, is starting to win increased attention in the healthcare sector for its ability to improve processes to both increase efficiency and improve outcomes.  As the volumes of data generated by physicians and patients themselves, even if it can all be collected and stored, its usefulness hinges on healthcare systems’ ability to access, organize, and analyze the data and turn it into actionable intelligence to drive the best treatments.

In fact, among a number of AI-related announcements to come out of HIMSS 2019, IBM Watson Health announced a $50 million investment in AI collaboration with two institutions, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  The purpose is to identify ideal health conditions that are ideally suited for AI solutions, including improving how EHRs and claims data are used to improve care, as well as how to create better physician and patient experiences through AI.

Telehealth

As expected, telehealth was a major topic of discussion, including a host of educational sessions covering everything from successful telehealth implementation to overcoming challenges of adoption, along with some specific use cases that have enjoyed high levels of success to date.

One session, in particular, provided key advice for providers looking to effectively leverage telehealth solutions.  “Exploring Critical Success Factors for Telehealth Implementation” discussed a five-stage process for telehealth successfully rolling out telehealth services:

Understanding clinical and administrative service needs – what are the current needs that are not being met with existing tech? Are there additional uses telehealth systems that will further increase its value?

Technology infrastructure – What technology currently exists that can be repurposed and what investments need to be made (i.e., video conferencing equipment, peripherals, PCs and webcams, store & forward software, digital cameras, etc.) for telehealth and related services?

Winning leadership support – This is where the funding approval for technology investment, staffing, education, and ongoing support needed to ensure effective rollout and adoption.

Physician buy-in – While some physicians and staff are keen to leverage connected health technologies, others are reluctant for a variety of reasons. Addressing these challenges at the outset will increase adoption and drive ROI.

Relationships with other providers/specialists – One of the benefits of connected health and telehealth services is the ability to transcend geographic boundaries of traditional care. The ability to build relationships with professionals within the organization, with others in the local referral network, as well as with other specialists and resources statewide and nationally can deepen the value of an investment in telehealth by providing doctors and patients access to a variety of resources.  Likewise, your networks’ specialists and other clinicians can become a resource for other networks nationwide.

Consumerization of healthcare

One of the key trends in healthcare for 2019 presented by HIMSS leading up to this year’s conference, and an idea that permeated the weeks activities, is increased consumer pressure for healthcare reform to reach a delivery model that increases access to patient-centric care, better use of patient-generated data, cost transparency, and choice of and access to a variety of providers.  Connected health and consumer technology is at the heart of this model.

“We’re in a consumeristic healthcare environment like we’ve never seen – consumers are ready to text their doctors, have a virtual visit, go online and have a discussion,” explained  Geeta Nayyar, Chief Healthcare & Innovation Officer, Femwell Group Health.  “We can’t be with our patients 24/7, and you don’t want us to be with you 24/7.  But you are, for the most part on your devices, so if we can meet you on those devices for times that you are not in the office with us, it goes a long way.”

Increasingly, mobile and wearable devices will increase both access to healthcare services and data uses to derive the best possible treatments – including proactive adjustments to prevent certain conditions.  There is still much to be done to move the healthcare industry to a value-based model that also improves population health, but the discussion in Orlando last week shows the industry has set its sights on reaching that goal and has started with its first steps in that direction.

To find out more about how telehealth and other connected health technologies can help deliver better patient outcomes, visit us here.

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