HIMSS16 was all about getting real when it comes to healthcare IT | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Before heading out to HIMSS16, I wrote about five themes I expected to dominate conversations at healthcare’s seminal event. It was interesting how a mix of those themes (and sometimes all five of them) figured into almost all of my meetings in Las Vegas. As I look at where the healthcare and life sciences market is headed in 2016-2017, there are a few secular changes dictating the technology mandate.

Please proceed with caution, as any attempt at synthesizing the narrative at an event of such scale can be ominous (and foolhardy in equal measure), but here goes:

Population health and patient engagement are finally coming into their own

Finally, care providers and vendors are talking about what an effective pop health or patient engagement actually represents, beyond ad-hoc individual investments. The need for having a coherent and thought-out strategy couldn’t be more pressing. CMS’ value-based goals have provided an increasing impetus to advancing the state of pop health programs to encompass a range of channels (mobile/social/self-service), enablers (big data & analytics, CRM, and EHR), and care dimensions. CMS has set a goal to have 50 percent in categories 3 and 4 (value-based care models including alternate care and population-based payments) by the end of 2018. I was a part of an insightful and interesting roundtable event hosted by Xerox (recapped here by Dr. Tamara StClaire, Xerox’s Chief Innovation Officer of Commercial Healthcare) on value-based care, which highlighted the principal issues regarding the definition and actual adoption of population health.

The 2016 elections has everybody on their toes

Merill Goozner, Editor of Modern Healthcare, had an interesting tidbit amidst all the election frenzy in the States. After Super Tuesday last week, the #1 Google search term in the U.S. was “moving to Canada.” The absurdity of the election season aside, it highlights an important realization of Trump’s ascendancy as a serious challenger. What either of the political choices mean for the ACA or universal health coverage is up for debate (no pun intended,) but we are in for some uncertain times. Payers are putting off some spending on health insurance exchanges looking for more visibility into future policies, providers are taking a wait-and-see approach on some discretionary spending, and pharma companies are taking a measured approach to see how the drug pricing debate plays out.

Interoperability becomes real … well almost

HHS secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell announced the interoperability pledge during her HIMSS16 keynote address. “We need to do better to unlock data,” she told attendees. She kicked off proceedings with a pledge from 17 major health IT developers, 16 large healthcare provider organizations, and 17 healthcare associations and medical societies to promote patients’ access to their own EHR, avoid information-blocking, and use federal standards to promote interoperability. The need to speak the same language when it comes to EHR and patient data is now a part of the discourse. I had interesting conversations when it comes to the openEHR Foundation as well. Everest Group covered the EHR space and the problem with the oligopoly in an earlier blog.

The cool stuff is good, but let’s talk about the nuts and bolts please

We live in an era where it is easy to end up drinking your own Kool-Aid and buying into the infinite buzzwords being peddled in the market. In recent years, we have had a slew of buzzwords circling all conversations about healthcare – analytics, big data, personalized medicine, population health, interoperability, and consumerization of healthcare. The single most significant change in my opinion has been the shift from discussing these themes to what they actually mean for a healthcare market in an existential transition. Peeling the onion, if you will.

So instead of focusing on just a social media campaign, healthcare buyers are increasingly coming with problems that involve resolving multiple instances of a CRM/EHR system residing in the organization, cleaning and unification of patient data across multiple sources to obtain a 360 degree view, getting disparate information silos to talk to each, and rationalizing infrastructure – real housekeeping issues. This, in a way, symbolizes the demand profile at the peak of the IT outsourcing boom. IT is crucial to getting this enabling layer together to be able to meaningfully run a pop health initiative.

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