HIMSS16: Let’s Talk About what Happened in Vegas

Guest post by Jeff Kaplan, chief strategy officer, ZirMed.

Jeff Kaplan
Jeff Kaplan

The 40,000 healthcare and healthcare IT professionals who gathered at the Sands Expo in Vegas brought a different vibe for HIMSS 2016. The halls buzzed with activity and an overall optimism that belied any of the potential causes for uncertainty—politics, a down stock market, increases in uncompensated care, the movement toward fee-for-value, or the staggering shift in patient responsibility.

For those who attended HIMSS 2015 in Chicago, the difference was visible in vendor messaging and audible in conversations during the conference. Among all attendees the optimism seemed well founded, grounded in reality. We all see significant opportunity to drive improvement in healthcare for our generation and generations to come. That’s why we came to HIMSS – we’ve placed our bets.

In that spirit, let’s talk about where healthcare is doubling down, where it’s hit a perfect blackjack, and which trends pushed as providers look for the next deal.

Double Down – Data Interoperability

Out of the gate at HIMSS 2016, there was increased focus and emphasis on the importance of data interoperability and integration. From booth signage to the increase in dedicated vendors to industry veterans evangelizing on the topic, you couldn’t miss the tells from all players—everyone wants to show they have a strong hand when it comes to interoperability. Epic’s Judy Faulkner made a play that Epic wasn’t just the leader of the interoperability movement – they were in fact the originator (see her interview with Healthcare IT News here).

Of course, wander off into other parts of the exhibition hall and it wasn’t long before you heard the all-too-familiar complaints about closed-system platforms – that they limit innovation by outside companies and technologists who can build applications to add additional value. In the era of Salesforce.com and other open platform successes, many HIMSS attendees spoke of their hope that companies like Cerner and Epic will follow suit.

Blackjack – Data Analytics

Over the last year vendors heard providers loud and clear – healthcare providers need hard ROI on any new initiatives, especially as many have EHR/HCIS sunk costs in the tens of millions of dollars. They need a sure thing—and the changes evident at HIMSS 2016 reflected that shift. Buzzwords like “Big Data” thankfully went to the wayside and were replaced with meaningful discussion around data analytics and data warehousing. Providers know they’ve amassed a wealth of clinical and financial data—now they’re looking for ways to increase the quality of patient care while driving down costs.

Vendors who are still in the game are those delivering solutions for decision support, business intelligence, and predictive analytics. Across the board, everyone understands the margin compression being passed on to providers. Vendors who are nimble enough to handle the change to value-based care are laser-focused on helping providers accurately understand and make the right calls on new, complex decisions—things like how a specific FFV or capitated contract will impact a given hospital.

In short, providers have hit blackjack—they have the data at their fingertips. Now they’re looking for solutions that help them cash in.

Push – Pop Health

After an entire year of companies professing their pop-health capabilities—and everyone from investors to editors to providers asking “what exactly is pop health?”—vendors have shifted their focus and their messaging toward more specific initiatives. This HIMSS conference was buzzing instead about “Population Wellness” and “Managing Populations and Outcomes”—specifics that are welcome after years of generalities. Precision Medicine overall took center stage thanks to President Obama’s recent $215 million investment in the effort to personalize treatment.

Vendors are clearly more focused on driving value in a specific area of the patient wellness continuum—on finding and excelling in their niche, in other words, which is a good thing. Whether that niche is driving down sepsis or hospital re-admissions or more comprehensive platform plays in the area of intelligent care-management built on workflow and analytics, the healthcare IT market is solidifying its pop health offerings to providers. Providers are assessing the new options based on their experience in a market that became flooded with general catch-alls.

Playing the Odds

If I had to make one prediction for the year ahead – in fact, for the next few years – it’s that we’ll continue to see a shift in execution and focus among vendors to drive hard return on investment. Providers are looking to make even smarter data-based decisions – and vendors and providers alike know that the odds of technology to support these capabilities are as close to a sure thing as there is.

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