What to Expect at HIMSS 2016

Guest post by Drew Ivan, director of business technology, Orion Health.

Drew Ivan
Drew Ivan

With such an enormous cross-section of the healthcare industry in attendance, the HIMSS Conference and Exhibition represents a comprehensive snapshot of the state of the healthcare industry and a perfect trendspotting opportunity. Here’s a preview of what I expect will be this year’s conference highlights.

Care coordination and population health and process improvement, workflow and change management are tied for the most popular category, with 29 educational sessions focused on each.

Representing 22 percent of the total number of sessions, this is clearly a focus area for the year’s conference, and it’s easy to see why. Changes in healthcare payment models are now well underway, and they are impacting payer and provider operations where healthcare is delivered, managed and documented.

Providers and payers alike are seeking information about how best to operationalize business processes and provide high quality care under new payment models, but it may be even more interesting to visit the Exhibition Hall to see what innovations vendors are bringing to the market to meet these needs.

Another topic related to changes in healthcare delivery is clinical informatics and clinician engagement, which is all about how new technologies, such as big data and precision medicine, can impact care decisions. The ability to make data-driven clinical decisions is one of the many dividends of widely adopted electronic health records. This is likely to be an important area for many years to come.

With 100 million medical records hacked last year, privacy and security is a hot topic at this year’s conference. The number of educational sessions in this category nearly doubled from 13 last year to 25 this year.

While preventing unauthorized access to records is the top priority, security will be a simpler problem to solve than privacy. As more sources of clinical data go from paper to electronic systems and more types of users have legitimate access to patient data, the problem of providing appropriate, fine-grained access in accordance with patient preferences, clinical settings and laws that differ across jurisdictions becomes very difficult to untangle.

Privacy and security concerns will need to be addressed with a combination of open standards and vendor products that implement them. Technologies from other industries, like banking, are likely to start making their way into healthcare.

This year, health information exchange (HIE) and interoperability educational sessions are combined into a single category, reflecting the fact that interoperability within a single institution is, at this point, more or less a solved problem. The next frontier is to enable interoperability across institutions to support improved transitions of care.

HIEs have a role to play when it comes to moving data between organizations; however, many HIEs are struggling or disappearing because of sustainability challenges. This year’s conference will provide an opportunity to learn best practices from the most successful HIEs. It will also be interesting to see what strategies HIE vendors will pursue as their customer base consolidates. In the Orion Health booth alone, we will have executives from HIEs talking about these same issues.

Medical devices, wearables, and fitness trackers do not figure prominently into this year’s HIMSS educational sessions, but this category’s dominance at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) indicates we may see a prevalence of wearable devices in the Exhibition Hall. While the devices themselves will be interesting, the solutions that can securely bring device data into the context of an EHR will also be key to this market segment’s success.

Entrepreneurship and venture investments is an exciting new category this year for HIMSS’ educational sessions. It includes a single session, but coupled with the emergence of other forums for healthcare startups, such as eHI’s iThrive Challenge, it points toward a trend. Innovative startups are beginning to find niches amid the disruption in today’s healthcare environment.

Increased adoption of EHRs and changes to payment models are driving once-in-a-generation changes to the healthcare system and the technologies that support it. This brings with it a new set of challenges and opportunities for companies that are positioned to address present and future needs. HIMSS16 will be one of the most interesting in a long time because of the profound changes happening in healthcare right now.

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