Top 9 Takeaways from HIMSS18

HIMSS18 was the biggest and best gathering of 40,000 of the brightest minds in health IT yet! I’ve attended more than 10 HIMSS annual conferences, and it never fails to surpass my expectations. Healthcare has big problems to solve, and HIMSS is a great microcosm of those challenges and the innovations that smart people and companies are creating to solve them. Now that I’m back in the office, I’d like to share my top nine takeaways with you:

1. A shift in cybersecurity from ‘if’ to ‘when’

Just a few years ago, there was no Cybersecurity Command Center at HIMSS and many healthcare providers took a prevention approach to cybersecurity: If I do x, y, and z, then I’m good! It’s just those unfortunate organizations who didn’t take measures to protect themselves that are on the Office for Civil Rights’ “Wall of Shame.” That mindset has definitely evolved to planning for cyberattacks and managing risk: Cybersecurity jumped from eighth to second in the top priorities for hospitals from 2017 to 2018 in HIMSS’ annual U.S. Leadership and Workforce Survey, and security-focused booths on the HIMSS18 exhibit floor were consistently busy. Axel Wirth, a Distinguished Healthcare Architect for the HIMSS Privacy and Security Committee and a healthcare solutions architect for Symantec, described this shift eloquently, “If a healthcare provider doesn’t see itself as a target, that would indicate that it doesn’t have a full understanding of what cybersecurity means in 2018.”

2. What belongs in the cloud?

With Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt delivering a keynote and Google, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, and many others touting new cloud capabilities and APIs, cloud was a hot topic at HIMSS18. While Schmidt declared moving to cloud as an imperative with the influence of consumerism on healthcare, many healthcare leaders aren’t so sure everything belongs there. My colleague Brian Edds, vice president of Product Strategy at Spok, hosted a focus group of CIOs during HIMSS. Most of them are taking a hybrid approach—cloud and on premise—to maintain control. “If a cloud vendor has an outage or rolls out significant changes, then I can’t do anything about it,” one CIO pointed out. They also agreed that some hospital systems, such as phone systems and clinical alerting, make more sense as on-premise systems and there isn’t a value-add for moving those to the cloud.

3. Let’s partner for greater success

Partnerships were a big theme of HIMSS18. Big announcements included Epic and NuanceCerner and Apple, and many vendors collaborating with hospitals and health systems, such as Wellpepper, a patient engagement startup, and Mayo Clinic. From the Spok perspective, we’ve strengthened our alliances with strategic solution partners, including Bernoulli, Black Box, HigherGround, QGenda, Spectralink, and Zebra. We also had an unprecedented amount of booth traffic from vendors we haven’t worked with in the past who are interested in partnering with us to leverage the power of the Spok Care Connect® platform.

4. Strides in patient engagement

Patient engagement continues to be an industry hot topic, mostly because no one really has figured it out yet! In a panel discussion at the HIMSS18 Patient Engagement & Experience Summit, most participants rated their own organizations poorly. They agreed that while good technology exists in the form of apps, chatbots, and patient portals, the challenge is to deploy them in a meaningful way and achieve significant patient adoption. Many healthcare organizations are struggling to put a strategic plan in place, market the value of patient engagement tools, and provide a compelling user experience. The big policy announcement in this area came from CMS Administrator Seema Verma, who rolled out a new initiative called MyHealthEData, an effort to get health data in the hands of all patients and to give those patients the power to send that data to whomever they choose.

5. Diving into telehealth

Telehealth as a technology has been around for decades, yet many healthcare organizations have been slow to embrace it. If HIMSS18 is any indication, telehealth is gaining momentum quickly. The National Quality Forum created a framework to help ensure providers deliver quality care, and many healthcare organizations, such as Avera Health, illustrated the real results they’ve achieved with telehealth, improving outcomes and lowering costs. The show was abuzz with new developments in care delivery models, legislation, reimbursement, and analytics that all but ensure the disruption of the traditional office visit.

6. Mobility that’s built for healthcare

“Mobility is not about just the device. It’s the mobility of the human experience,” Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, said recently on the Freakonomics podcast’s CEO series. Healthcare is embodying that philosophy with mobility solutions that improve the provider experience. This includes healthcare-grade devices, such as the new Spectralink Versity and the Zebra TC151. Built for nurses, these devices have top-of-the-line cameras, barcode scanners, integrations with hospital systems, sleek designs, and fast interfaces. Couple these devices with “killer apps” like clinical decision support, EHR access, and Spok Mobile® for clinical communication and collaboration, and you have the mobility technology necessary to fully empower mobile care teams.

7. Women in health IT out in full force

HIMSS18 coincided with International Women’s Day (March 8) this year, and women in health IT had a bigger presence and focus at the conference than I’ve seen before. As a female nurse executive, it was heartening to see so many colleagues leading sessions (over 10 gave keynotes and many others led breakouts), receiving well-deserved recognition, and showcasing technology they helped develop. While we still have work to do within health IT and other industries to accelerate gender parity, women made their voices heard at HIMSS18, and everyone was listening.

8. Interoperability’s bright future

I really hope you had a chance to visit the HIMSS Interoperability Showcase™ in Las Vegas, a 30,000-square-foot exhibition that brings leading vendors together to demonstrate how they can connect care in a live setting. Too often, interoperability is brushed off as nirvana, something that we may be able to reach if we have all of the right players on board and all of the right policies. It’s easy to forget that an incredible level of interoperability exists right now, and you only had to walk by the Interoperability Showcase to see the jaws on the floor, intent stares, and actual applause to realize it. Two of my colleagues, Rob Wilder and James Campbell, were in the showcase all day, every day, as key players in three use cases: Reinventing medication management, cardiovascular and diabetes risk, and transplant care. Seeing how leading companies and technologies can come together to save lives and improve outcomes is pretty magical.

9. The post-EHR era: What’s next?

The post-EHR era is officially here: EHRs tumbled six spots to priority #8 on the HIMSS’ U.S. Leadership and Workforce Survey. So of course, the natural question is, ‘what’s next’? AI, augmented reality, biometrics, IoT, and a litany of other buzzwords have been suggested. However, the reality is that many healthcare organizations are lacking something much more basic and impactful: enterprise clinical communications. Each year at HIMSS, we have hundreds of conversations with healthcare organizations who rely on manual, paper-based processes for communication. Forget about reaching the use cases we demonstrated in the Interoperability Showcase—these organizations lack an enterprise directory, automated on-call scheduling, and clinician-to-clinician messaging. The next wave in the post-EHR era is an enterprise healthcare communication platform that extends and complements the benefits EHRs have provided.

It’s your turn! Which of my takeaways do you think was the biggest hot topic?
Patient Engagement
Women in Health IT
Clinical Communication Platforms
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See you all at HIMSS19 in Orlando!