By George Mathew, M.D., chief medical officer for the North American Healthcare organization, DXC Technology.
In mid-February, nearly 45,000 health information and technology professionals, clinicians, executives and suppliers gathered to explore healthcare’s latest innovations at the annual Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in Orlando, Florida.
These “champions of healthcare” examined the greatest challenges facing the industry — including an aging population, chronic disease, a lack of actionable information and increasingly demanding consumers. They also explored how new solutions are being enabled by technologies such as predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and telemedicine.
The following four trends drove much of the conversation at HIMSS19 and will continue to shape the next wave of healthcare transformation.
Organizing and innovating around patients
As patients gain access to more information about their health and new technologies empower them to be proactive consumers of healthcare, the industry is focusing on how patients as consumers will drive new models of care. Topics such as patient engagement, patient-centric health information exchanges, personalized care and the consumerization of health were prominent during HIMSS19 learning sessions and conversations around the expo hall.
The shift toward patient-centered care is driving the redesign of existing healthcare information systems and infrastructure. Systems will need to adapt to the possibility of receiving data from patients and ensuring ubiquitous access to care. Providers are increasingly striving to adopt and offer a personalized care approach, with a focus on consumer engagement and coordinated, personalized care experiences. They are also looking toward enabling patients to navigate the system using a combination of digital and human services that extend outside the hospital. Beyond simply extending the electronic health record, the entire patient experience across health systems will become even more focused on ensuring that each patient gets the level of care that is best suited to them and most affordable, at the right time and in the most appropriate setting for that individual.
Enabling the “digital data revolution”
In addition to broader access to electronic health records and data that patients record themselves on personal devices — such as heart rate, blood pressure, etc. — providers and payers want to be able to gain a better understanding of a patient’s risk through social determinants of health (SDOH). These are factors that contribute to a person’s current state of health, such as social and physical environment, job training and employment opportunities.
The idea that clinical information is the only patient information that matters is being replaced with more holistic views of the person, which is, in turn, being factored into care plans. This trend is raising interesting and important questions about ownership of, and access to, health data. HIMSS thought leaders consistently pointed to industry considerations, such as data ownership, stewardship, and transparency; donation of (de-identified) data for research purposes; consent to data usage; and data as an asset. More robust data analytics leads to insights for healthcare businesses looking to better manage patient care. The “digital data revolution” could bring about new ways to conduct real-time care process evaluation and recruitment for clinical trials. The industry may also move toward exploring official partnerships, with self-organizing patient cooperatives designed to collate patient data and trade that aggregated data for health care services discounts.
On the heels of major announcements proposing industry changes related to improved patient access to electronic health data and the adoption of standardized application programming interfaces (API), the calls for interoperability were loud and clear throughout HIMSS.
Having a standard for data formats gives the industry a consistent framework to link data from different sources of health information at speed. It provides opportunities to make patient data more useful and transferable through open, secure and machine-readable formats while reducing the burdens on healthcare providers. Nimble, API-driven platform environments will be able to add, associate and organize structured and unstructured data to create a system of insight. Providers can move toward adopting the digital capabilities to take data collected through claims, electronic health records and wearable devices, then perform robust analytics on this information and make it accessible and actionable.
This information may then be reused in other environments involved in treatment of an acute health concern, the longer-term well-being of the patient, population health or family health. For example, where appropriate, genetic and health history information can be used to benefit the health of a patient’s children, eliminate tests, shorten treatment pathways and provide alternative strategies to improve outcomes.
Applying advanced technology
HIMSS also spotlighted how advanced technologies and analytics from smart devices, telemedicine, AI and machine learning can enable better, faster and more cost-efficient outcomes.
For example, organizations can use AI and machine learning to enable hyper-dimensional information correlations. No longer are diagnoses based on simple one-to-one correlations, but rather, on thousands or millions of multi-dimensional correlations. Physicians will be able to spend less time searching for diagnoses and effective treatments and more time applying them. Edge technologies, such as geolocation data and digital health apps, can be used to “nudge” patients by suggesting better health and wellness choices and, where needed, connect to a human adviser.
Leveraging highly specialized analytics data, health system departments’ workflows can be optimized to improve processes and cost-efficiencies. Put simply, workflow automation can help support healthcare worker productivity. Likewise, adding a focus on robotics and AI improves outcomes in the laboratory and pharmacy as well.
With another HIMSS “in the books,” the industry can look forward to seeing these opportunities for improvement play out over the coming years. We can bring fresh insights and new innovations into our daily work, which HIMSS CEO Hal Wolf described in his opening keynote address as fulfilling “the health potential of every human everywhere.” It’s certainly an exciting time to be part of this mission.