Jane Smith, a 53-year-old diabetic patient, goes to her kitchen to grab a glass of water when she suddenly feels dizzy. She grabs her portable, battery-operated blood glucose monitor to check her blood sugar level and finds it is higher than usual. The HbA1c level from the device is immediately sent to her care team, who are connected with her via a common digital platform.
Her care coordinator calls and advises her to take an insulin shot at the earliest. Within a few minutes, she is visited by a nurse who assists in giving her the insulin received from the pharmacy. Jane is also asked to see her PCP as soon as possible. A week later when she consults her PCP, he is already aware of her medical condition and the medication dosage she received the other day. He looks at her profile on his EHR and marks the care gap that was created as closed.
Now, Jane, her care team, the PCP, the hospital, and the pharmacy can look into her medical records and manage her care with a few clicks on this online platform; and Jane herself has enough clinical insights to make an informed decision about her care.
Does all of this seem like a far-fetched dream?
Healthcare technology has birthed many dreams and turned them into a reality. And yet, it lacks the capability to share clinical data efficiently at the exact moment of care.
What do we want from 100 percent interoperability?
When we talk about technology, the first thing that pops into our heads is Google. It’s an absolute comfort when we get a notification on our calendars that we might be late for an upcoming meeting. This is not rocket science, just two different products interacting on the same layer of a platform to make our lives simpler.
Augmented reality (AR) is one of the hottest trends in technology today. Its popularity is equally reflected in projections, as the market is expected to be worth more than $160 billion by 2020, up from just $4 billion in 2016. But its use is not limited to simply chasing Pokémon and other games. With a growing number of applications across a range of industries, the technology is increasingly being adopted within the healthcare sector, where analysts predict its value will reach around $5 billion by 2025.
A number of healthcare providers and medical device manufacturers have already begun to realize AR’s potential for improving their efficiency and effectiveness. A handheld AR device developed by US-based AccuVein, for example, enables clinicians to quickly and easily locate veins for injections – scanning and projecting a virtual image of a patient’s veins on their skin. And in the UK, surgeons at London’s Imperial College Healthcare Trust use Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset to create an accurate, real-time, virtual 3-D map of a patient’s blood vessels, muscles and bones before making a single incision.
Its impact isn’t only being felt by healthcare providers. In pharmaceuticals, for example, there are AR apps available which can give patients access to information such as dosage instructions and possible side effects. Those patients simply scan a particular prescription and the application recognizes the medication. Furthermore, solutions such as Ghostman are aiding patients with physical rehabilitation therapy following serious injury, and scientists are even exploring how the technology can be used to treat psychiatric and neurological conditions.
Given the benefits it offers both healthcare providers and their patients, AR’s growing popularity within the sector is not surprising. As with any new technology, though, implementing AR is not without its challenges.
Obstacles to overcome
While there may be a great deal of hype around future applications, it’s worth remembering that AR is still a relatively nascent space. There is currently little in the way of an ecosystem around the technology, as well as a lack of interoperability — both obstacles of implementation.
As it stands, developers are required to either build AR applications for one single platform or find ways of creating content for different platforms. Since each of these options has its own specific requirements, most AR apps today tend to be stand-alone projects. This situation is likely to be resolved over time with the implementation of common standards which will enable the creation of common frameworks, speeding up the overall development and deployment process. Once these standards are in place, it’s likely that AR will become more widely adopted within the healthcare sector.
Perception is also crucial — the future of AR depends on how it is perceived by end users. If AR is to be widely adopted, it’s important that developers ensure they put user experience at the heart of every project. As a burgeoning technology, AR is still something of an unknown quantity, so it is vital that sufficient time be given to ensure success. To do this, factors like loading and rendering three-dimensional objects, taking into account the real-world environment and conditions, and to carrying out extensive load testing will be required prior to release. Lag, or a lack of response in an AR application, might be frustrating when you’re trying to catch a Pokémon – but when we talk about care delivery, the consequences will be considerably more dire.
HIMSS today shared insights on what’s next in health on the heels of the HIMSS19 Global Conference & Exhibition. This year’s event – which saw more than 43,000 attendees from 90 countries around the world and featured nearly 500 education sessions on 24 education topics – highlighted current industry priorities and offered a glimpse of what the industry can expect to see in the coming year.
Interoperability was a hot topic, with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) each unveiling sweeping and highly anticipated rules aimed at reducing information blocking and allowing patients easier access to their health data. Additionally, HIMSS Analytics released a new maturity model for enterprise imaging, an important step in establishing standards and benchmarks for a digitized imaging IT environment. And the HIMSS Interoperability Showcase, featuring demonstrations and use cases for today’s latest interoperability solutions, continued to be the most trafficked area of the exhibition floor.
Another theme that was top of mind for this year’s attendees was patient engagement. The HIMSS Patient Engagement & Experience Summit, a pre-conference specialty program, highlighted how patient-friendly technology is improving the care experience. More than 1,400 exhibitors showcased offerings to improve the patient experience, ranging from artificial intelligence solutions to precision medicine breakthroughs and more. Keynote sessions featuring public sector leaders from both the current and former administrations emphasized how digital health is maturing and empowering patients to take greater charge of their health.
The cornucopia that is the annual HIMSS conference and tradeshow – healthcare technology’s biggest event – is behind us, but what’s left in the wake is wonderful, inspiring even, if not a bit overwhelming. The reactions to this year’s event have been overwhelmingly positive. Interoperability in the form of data sharing and a ban on patient health information blocking by CMS (through proposed rules released the first day of HIMSS) set the tone.
This was followed by CMS administrator Seema Verma taking a strong tone in all of her presentations at HIMSS, with the media and during her keynote speech. The federal body made it clear that data generated from patient care is, unequivocally, their data. While these themes heavily influenced the show, there were other takeaways.
There are many other diverse opinions about what came out at HIMSS19 and the themes that will affect healthcare in the year ahead. For some additional perspective, I turned to healthcare’s thought leaders; people who are a lot smarter than I. Their responses follow. That said, did we miss anything in the following?
Dr. Geeta Nayyar, Femwell Group Health and TopLine MD
After spending a week surrounded by some of the most intellectual and innovative minds globally in healthcare at HIMSS19, I’m even more confident that the shift toward patient engagement mass adoption is well underway and ON FHIR. The new CMS/ONC proposed law around interoperability and penalties for “information blocking,” are both touchdowns for the quarterback, which remains to be patient engagement. The robust discussions during the pre-conference HIMSS patient engagement program, reflected a move to a consumer-centric approach evidenced by the presence of Amazon, Google and Microsoft at the show. The keynote by Premier’s CEO Susan Devore shared a consumer-centered, provider led vision, “with data flowing seamlessly and being analyzed and effectively leveraged to guide decision making at the point of care.” Collaboration in healthcare is the key to everyone’s success. I was inspired to see her and so many women coming together to support each other in HIT, as Dr. Mom remains the healthcare decision maker in the households, we are all ultimately trying to reach.
Andrew Schall, Modernizing Medicine
Physician burnout continues to be a hot topic coming out of HIMSS19 and many feel that EHR platforms may be a part of the burnout epidemic. There were several sessions that focused on user-centered design at HIMSS this year including one that focused on the iterative approach to software development and user experience. First, I think that the industry is recognizing that one-size-fits doesn’t work for EHRs. Additionally, I believe that improvements will come in large part from the greater involvement of practicing physicians in designing specialty-specific EHR workflows and interfaces. A combination of powerful technology like AI and augmented intelligence, as well as well-designed EHR solutions with an intuitive user interface and user experience, will help ease the physician burden and automate time-consuming and administrative tasks like coding and billing – ultimately reducing burnout.
Shane Whitlatch, FairWarning
HIMSS 2019 showcased the ongoing digital transformation to make healthcare responsive to patients across a continuum of care. Enabling patients to be able to access, use and own their personal health data, while ensuring privacy and security was the central takeaway of this year’s HIMSS. Notable, critical moves to support this goal included: the Department of Health and Human Services announced proposed rules to enhance interoperability and data access with payor data; ongoing security and privacy efforts to ensure appropriate patient access to their data while mitigating emerging risks from items including medical devices to nation-state attackers; and artificial intelligence and machine learning initiatives to effectively manage the tsunami of data in healthcare while promoting optimal healthcare.
Tripp Peake, LRVHealth
The best part of HIMSS this year was we seemed to get away from a single buzzword. Healthcare is hard, there’s no silver bullet. The Precision Medicine Summit got into the weeds about how to really roll out a program in a provider system. The AI companies stopped talking about AI for AI sake and were more focused on ROI. Everyone seemed more balanced about VBC: yes, inevitable, but also gradual. Consumerism was probably as close to a central theme as existed. And I continue to be excited about the energy, creativity, and commitment of the entrepreneurs in this market.
Don Woodlock, InterSystems
Anytime you bring 43,000 healthcare professionals together in one location, you will never have a shortage of opinions on the future of the industry. We are at the cusp of a revolution in healthcare, driven by technological advancements. Some key trends we saw at HIMSS19 were, no surprise, around artificial intelligence, where people are trying to enhance predictive risk scoring and improve patient engagement. Additionally, there were profound announcements around mandating application programming interface (APIs) to improve the flow of healthcare data across the ecosystem. As interoperability becomes liquid, it will become the critical component of every healthcare system, driving the industry to new heights.
Paddy Padmanabhan, Damo Consulting
On day one of the conference, the HHS sucked the oxygen out of the room by dropping a proposed 800-page rule on data and interoperability. The rule aims to aggressively expand interoperability by making it mandatory for providers and health plans participating in government programs such as Medicare Advantage, CHIP and others to make patient data available to patients as a condition for business. CMS head Seema Verma and ONC Chief Don Rucker drove the message home repeatedly during the conference. Indeed, Seema Verma declared it an epic misunderstanding that patient data can belong to anyone other than the patient. A somewhat sobering counterpoint was voiced by Epic Systems CEO Judy Faulkner in a media interview where she suggested that interoperability challenges go well beyond data sharing by EHR vendors. Regardless of where it may fall, interoperability will continue to dominate healthcare IT agenda for some time to come. Related issues around new and emerging data sources, especially social determinants of health, will gain prominence in the coming months.
Erin Benson, LexisNexis Health Care
The proposed rule on interoperability of health information influenced most conversations at HIMSS. In the context of cybersecurity, the rule served as a reminder that it’s just as important to let “good guys” in quickly and seamlessly as it is to prevent unauthorized access. We want to enable value-based care and give patients the ability to manage their own health by having access to their records. We also want to keep costs low and efficiency high by enabling interoperability and giving partners, vendors and employees necessary access to systems. Therefore, a cybersecurity strategy needs to strike a balance between user engagement and data security.
Mike Morgan, Updox
The power of consumerism is really impacting healthcare and the need for patient engagement is alive and well. Providers across the board must look at new technologies and ways to redefine patient engagement to better communicate with patients and partners but do it via channels that are easy for staff and customers to use. New applications, such as telehealth and secure text messaging, have changed how healthcare communicates and consumers are demanding that immediate, convenient engagement.
Vince Vickers, KPMG
HIMSS19 seemed to have the most decision makers at the conference in five-plus years when a lot of healthcare organizations were still looking at implementing electronic health records. We might be ready for another wave of healthcare IT investment after healthcare organizations digested those investments made in electronic health records. The key is now around optimizing EHRs – interoperability, improving ease of use, enhancing analytics — or dedicating resources to enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to make themselves more efficient in the back office. We’re also seeing healthcare organizations position themselves to be more consumer-oriented, partly to address new entries from some of the tech companies, such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and a multitude of others, that wanted to make a big splash at HIMSS.
The megalithic healthcare conference, HIMSS19, has come and has gone from the vast former swampland of central Florida. While I’m a relative newcomer to the show’s trajectory – I’ve been to four of the annual tradeshows since 2011 – this year’s version was, for me, the most rewarding and complete of them all. This could be for one of several reasons. Perhaps because I no longer represent a vendor so sitting in the exhibit hall in a 30×30 booth with a fake smile wondering when the day’s tedium would end and the night’s socials would begin may impact my rosy outlook.
Or, maybe I was simply content to engage in the totality of the experience, attend some quality sessions, meet with many high-class people and discuss so-called news of the day/week/year. Doing so felt, well, almost like coming home. Or, perhaps my experience at the conference this year was so good because of running into former colleagues and acquaintances that drove me to such a place of contentment while there. No matter the reason, I enjoyed every minute of my time at the event.
Something else felt right. An energy – a vibe – something good, even great, seems/ed about to happen. Something important taking place in Orlando, and I was blessed to be a part of it. Kicking off the week, CMS created news – like it does every year at about this time – with its announcement that it will no longer allow health systems and providers to block patients from their data. This was a shot across the bow of interoperability and the industry’s lack of effort despite its constant gibberish and lip service to the topic.
Another fascinating thing that finally occurred to me: no matter the current buzzword, every vendor has a solution that’s perfect for said buzzword. Be it “patient engagement,” “interoperability,” “artificial intelligence,” “blockchain”; whatever the main talking point, every organization on the exhibit floor has an answer.
But, no one seems to have any real answers.
For example, after nearly a decade, we still don’t have an industry standard for interoperability. Patient engagement was once about getting people to use patient portals for, well, whatever. Then it was apps and device-driven technologies. We’re now somewhere in between all of these things.
AI? Well, hell. It’s either about mankind engineering the damnedest algorithms to automate the hell out of everything in the care setting (an over exaggeration) or that AI/machine learning will lead to the rise of machines, which will help care for and cure people – before ultimately turning on us and killing or enslaving us all (again, I’m overly exaggerating).
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.
Following the release of its proposed new rules designed to improve the interoperability of electronic health information, members of leadership from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) hosted a call to provide additional detail about the proposed rule, and to answer questions from the media. The following includes the key takeaways from the officials hosting the call.
Seema Verma, Administrator, CMS
CMS shares a commitment with patients to obtain and share their health data.
The proposed rules ensure patients have access to their records in digital format.
We are “unleashing” data for research and innovation while tackling what might be the greatest healthcare challenge in our history, including the potential upcoming healthcare cost crisis that could destroy the US economy.
MyHealthEData unleashes innovation and focuses on results.
CMS is doubling down by requiring health plans to release claims data. All health plans in Medicare, Medicaid and that have plans within the federal exchange must allow for information be shared so patients can take their records with them when they move on.
Through these efforts, more than 125 million patients will have access to health information and be able to take information with them.
We are putting an end to information blocking and will publically identify doctors, hospitals and others who engage in information blocking.
Patient data doesn’t belong to doctor, but to the patient.
We’re putting the patient at the center of healthcare data. The time of keeping patients in the dark to trap them in systems so that they can never leave are over.
We are empowering patients to understand their healthcare information.
This rule allows patients to aggregate their data in one place through APIs/apps – putting the data in one place to help them understand it. They can organize the information, create care reminders, take data for the next provider when they go to a new provider.
This allows for aggregation of data in one place; physicians no long need to duplicate tests, for example.
Patients can donate their data for research, if they so desire, possibly opening up new wave of innovation of development.
Don Rucker, MD, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC)
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today proposed new rules to support seamless and secure access, exchange and use of electronic health information. The rules, issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), would increase choice and competition while fostering innovation that promotes patient access to and control over their health information. The proposed ONC rule would require that patient electronic access to this electronic health information (EHI) be made available at no cost.
“These proposed rules strive to bring the nation’s healthcare system one step closer to a point where patients and clinicians have the access they need to all of a patient’s health information, helping them in making better choices about care and treatment,” said HHS secretary Alex Azar. “By outlining specific requirements about electronic health information, we will be able to help patients, their caregivers, and providers securely access and share health information. These steps forward for health IT are essential to building a healthcare system that pays for value rather than procedures, especially through empowering patients as consumers.”
By Gevik Nalbandian, vice president of software development, NextGate
If you wanted a clear snapshot of the progress we’ve made—or rather, haven’t made—in patient data sharing and exchange, look no further than a new report from the American Hospital Association (AHA) and six other national hospital associations—America’s Essential Hospitals, Association of American Medical Colleges, Catholic Health Association of the United States, Children’s Hospital Association, Federation of American Hospitals and the National Association for Behavioral Healthcare.
Urging all stakeholders to “unite in accelerating interoperability,” the report, released January 22, is a grass roots effort to get hospitals, EHR vendors, consumers, health information exchanges (HIEs), government and medical device companies to come to the table, play their respective roles, and make full interoperability a reality.
The benefits of interoperability are obvious: better care coordination, improved patient safety and care quality, reduced costs, increased efficiencies and the conduit to population health. Interoperability is also increasingly a legal requirement and prerequisite for reimbursement.
So why has healthcare’s goal of industry-wide interoperability remained so elusive?
The statistics are terrifying. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Alcohol poisoning kills six people every day. Of those, 76 percent are adults ages 35 to 64, and three of every four people killed by alcohol poisoning are men. The group with the most alcohol poisoning deaths per million people is American Indians/Alaska Natives (49.1 per one million). More than 15 million people struggle with an alcohol use disorder in the United States, but less than eight percent of those receive treatment.
Almost 72,000 Americans died last year from drug overdoses, a record high acknowledging an increase of about 10 percent, according to new preliminary estimates from the Centers for Disease Control. The death toll is higher than the peak yearly death totals from H.I.V., car crashes and even U..S. gun deaths.
Treating addiction is not a simple process and the current treatment of 90-day detox programs works well if you have thousands of beds, staff and other resources. Meanwhile the actual behavioral health treatment of addition is not much better. It is still a time-consuming process requiring individual diagnosis, but largely driven by paper and trial and error guesswork.
Meanwhile heroin, fentanyl and other synthetic drugs addictions were surpassing alcoholism. In Gallup, New Mexico, last year 104 people died from drug and alcohol abuse in McKinley County while the state suffered 1,952 deaths, the 13th highest in the US.
One of the nation’s epicenters of addiction is Gallup, New Mexico, where 22,000 addicts await a behavioral healthcare fix. While there are many tech solutions in healthcare, behavioral health does not receive the same level of attention as physical health, despite mental, behavioral and physical health being inextricably linked, as the World Health Organization noted in a 2014 report.
One of the widest chasms between the two began in U.S. healthcare in 2010 with the transition from paper to electronic patient medical records. However, these electronic health record (EHR) systems have been focused on the physical side of medical recording, leaving the behavioral side with little support.
While care collaboration through interoperability remains one of the major challenges in the healthcare industry, collaboration between physical and behavioral health has is also behind the curve. Behavioral health services (BHS) operate and are updated based on paper records, leaving challenges around efficiency, communication and the ability to scale treatment operations.
Historically, clinicians have directly performed assessments of people for the purposes of diagnosis, monitoring the progression of an illness, or evaluating responses to treatment. For example, a person’s mental state can be evaluated by examining movement patterns, mood states, social interactions (e.g., number of texts and phone calls made, content of interactions), behaviors or activities at different times of day, vocal tone, speed, word choices, facial expressions, biometric and heath measures.
While assessing an individual’s symptomatology, large quantities of behavioral data can provide vital information for researchers to increase their understanding of mental illnesses and mental wellbeing, help develop better interventions and better health outcomes, and potentially predict who may be at risk of developing behavioral health problems.
Providers addicted to records and files
A physical health issue can require visits to a primary care physician, specialists, and possibly x-ray technicians along with the records and paper trails that go along with it, the treatment of behavioral health is often much more complex. If a patient requiring behavioral care shows up at an urgent care facility and receives treatment, that data doesn’t get back to the patient’s primary care provider. The primary care provider only learns of the visit if the patient decides to give them that data. The PCP can’t pull information from possible business partners in the area to know when there’s been a change.
A substance abuse patient needs a physical and mental examination before they can check into the behavioral health center. An intake coordinator starts that process, then the patient sees a nurse, and then a counselor. But the person also has depression and needs to see a psychiatrist and they also need to go to the detox center at the hospital. Chances are they also have social problems to worry about such as child support, perhaps a bankruptcy case, or they’re headed to jail.
In addition, different behavioral treatment centers may have operational differences such as the number of treatment phases and the ability to track, monitor and anticipate recidivism after patients graduate from treatment centers. There are also differing manual processes and types of tracking documentation used by facilities while training programs may or may not be part of treatment centers as well.
In a typical BHS treatment center, their process and workflow comprise admission and treatment which includes assigning a treatment counselor, nurse for withdrawal, case manager and training program coordinator. There is also a program for job training, an aftercare phase along with monitoring, tracking, reporting and progress improvement or non-progress on treatment programs against the outcome of the overall program.
However, this phase is cumbersome because of the lack of an electronic recording system for behavioral health as most records are stored as PDFs in EHR systems. In addition to these limitations, there is lack of support to track progress or non-progress on patient outcomes.
Unlike the ‘physical’ medical approach, behavioral care treatments tend to be more subjective to each care provider and require a longer time to monitor and record positive outcomes from treatment. Behavioral treatment depends more on data analytics from patients to determine the best approach for patient engagements. There are also additional data categories required for BHS such as chemical dependency assessment, a treatment plan, social service related data, a training program and related data and mental health assessments.
When considering all this additional data versus data requirements for physical care, it seems like a process that is almost designed to be slow and cumbersome. So if the parameters of treatment can’t be changed to accommodate the surge in addicts, the only other consideration is the treatment process.