Impact Insights

HIMSS 2015: Top 10 Takeaways!

This time last week my feet hurt, my head was spinning with too much information and I had the overwhelming sense I was at the world’s largest high school reunion.  Flu, you ask?  No – the 2015 Annual HIMSS Conference & Exhibition!  And as always, I learned a lot from the educational offerings, caught up with dozens and dozens of former colleagues, and walked a gazillion miles in the gigantic exhibit hall.

I took the time to poll my coworkers on their experiences too and here’s what we came up with for our Top Ten Takeaways from this year’s conference:

1) Interoperability

  • The Buzzword Bingo winner is…. “interoperability!”  It was EVERYWHERE!  Vendors are focused on the how, how much, and with whom they will exchange data. Interesting to see both hype and reality.  Some vendors promised “universal access to everything” while others admit still being a long way away.
  • The HIMSS Interoperability Showcase effectively had product users (not vendors) demo’ing capabilities in patient rooms.  The HL7® FHIR® (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, pronounced “fire”) seems to be getting traction in ultimately enabling true interoperability.  Several FHIR SMART apps showed promise this may actually become a usable standard.  It is conceivable that we will see a health app store similar to the Apple, Google, or Amazon app stores within a year or two.

2) Population Health & Analytics

  • Both these terms still lack definition – and both are still mentioned at nearly every booth, even those having nothing to do with data collection and analysis.
  • Most interesting to me as a takeaway was the formation of Hybrid Health Systems in what seems to be a significant movement by health systems to engage in insurance/payer services as part of their enterprise strategies.    Baylor/Scott White, CHRISTUS, CHI, Cleveland Clinic, Intermountain Healthcare, Ascension, Tenet, etc. are pursuing these partnerships and a critical component underlying their respective growth strategies is development and deployment of clinical and business intelligence foundations.

3) Meaningful Use (HITECH, ARRA, Reform)

  • MU was also a buzz word with Proposed Stage 1, 2 and 3 Changes.  CIOs and health executives ranged from exasperated to deer in headlights on understanding and determining how to address recent MU releases, and the upcoming comment period for MU3 especially since CMS appears to only be partially listening.
  • Another “frustrator” is that there is no clear direction on government role for regulatory influence beyond MU, ICD-10, Medicare penalty programs…what are they going to do next?

4) Security

  • Most organizations are not prepared to survive an ONC audit of security around HIPAA with multiple areas needing to be addressed including encryption, collection of unnecessary data (e.g., SSN, particularly if not encrypted), conducting internal reviews to evaluate security readiness and appropriate monitoring in place to detect and respond to threats.
  • New audits by OIG staff coming onsite to hospitals for up to 3 weeks conducting extensive security reviews.  We couldn’t find guidance from OIG or CMS as to consequences.

5) Patient Engagement

  • Connecting with People in addition to Patients was tied to Population Health, Walgreens Keynote, Sensor Data and numerous education sessions in support of what seemed to be the next biggest buzz:  Patient Engagement.  This included everything from collecting and using patient data, engaging them in their personal health, empowering them with knowledge or actions, and patient wearables.  Lots of little, new vendors trying to get into the market here and it will be interesting to see it play out.
  • One Accenture survey raised a flag, however, noting that “70% of Physicians Believe Health IT Decreased Patient Engagement.”

6) Attendance at an all-time high – 42,000+!

  • Epic had the most attention and by far the most people at HIMSS with 2,700 Epic employees in attendance including attendees and booth staff.  Cerner, its next largest competitor in the EHR market, brought only 377.

7) Commonwell Health Alliance re-emerged after being a non-mention at 2014 conference

  • A demo shared problems and medications between McKesson, Allscripts and Cerner (along with a little SMART App plug in).  With the help of FHIR, data is actually moving through Relay Health in and out of the 3 EHRs in a secure environment.  It looked complicated and perhaps not quite as “slick” as Epic to Epic client functionality but definitely a step in the right direction.

8) Exhibitor Highlights

  • IBM finally stepped into the analytics side big time with Explorys and Phytel acquisitions which they plan to link to Watson for limitless healthcare related opportunities.  They also announced partnerships with Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic.  The chatter around the above announcements seems to indicate that IBM is new “big gorilla” in the very large exhibit hall.  And announcement of Watson Health yesterday seems to confirm their intentions.  Generally speaking, Watson is still unbelievably cool.  It was fascinating to see how Sloan Kettering “trained” Watson to help physicians treat cancer patients.
  • Surescripts implementing its National Record Locator Service (RLS) with electronic health record (EHR) vendors eClinicalWorks, Epic, and Greenway Health, enables more than 480,000 providers to utilize the technology to locate and exchange patient health records stored in any healthcare location across the country.  Also very cool.

9) HISTalk Awards

  • HISsie Award for Smartest vendor action:  Epic and IBM join for DoD EHR bid
  • HISsie Award for Most Over-Utilized Healthcare Term:  Optimization  
    Actually, Optimization is really the next step for health care IT along with interoperability.  Now that we have our EHR, let’s maximize its efficacy.  I predict it will be next year’s Buzzword winner.  You heard it here first.

10) Cubs were in town!  Going to a Cubs game was on more than a few people’s “Bucket List” and the weather cooperated, although Wrigley Field is very cold after sunset in April.