- 1,300+ exhibiting companies;
- 240 first-time exhibitors;
- 54 startups; and
- Multiple specialty pavilions (e.g., Developer Innovation Lab, HIMSS Interoperability Showcase).
Conference highlights from the Health Care IT Advisor program
Our team spent the week exploring the exhibit halls, meeting health system executives, participating in panels, and attending education sessions. Below are a few themes that caught the eyes of some of our experts this year.
This year, both CMS and ONC unveiled significant policy updates at HIMSS. The Interoperability and Patient Access Proposed Rule builds upon the CMS MyHealthEData initiative to address the health care industry's interoperability issues and improve patients' access to their electronic health information.
Meanwhile, ONC published a long-awaited Proposed Rule to implement provisions of the 21 Century Cures Act. They propose seven specific exceptions to the definition of information blocking, and an update to certain health IT certification criteria in support of interoperability and Application Programming Interface (API) functionality that allows patients to access their health information using applications of their choosing.
To learn more on the proposals and implications for the health care industry, read our new cheat sheet, "2019 Interoperability and Patient Access, Cures Act Proposals."
After years of frenetic growth and technology-fueled hype, this year's HIMSS show felt sober, with renewed focus on real-world value. Vendors largely dialed down the level of spectacle and extravagant giveaways, and the booths receiving the most traffic were generally focused on solving bread-and-butter operational problems. Artificial intelligence was still pervasive, but again the focus shifted from technology hype towards the concrete value AI can deliver.
I'm always on the lookout for big leaps forward, the technological surprises that we won't be able to live without a decade from now. For me, this year's eye-opener was Nuance's latest iteration of its "Ambient Clinical Intelligence" concept. Nuance has been advancing AI-assisted clinical documentation for years, but its demonstration of real-time, background documentation of a patient encounter brings its vision of a radically improved physician and patient experience into clear focus. Technology is partly to blame for the epidemic of physician burnout, but I'm optimistic that AI can be part of the long-term solution.
The highlight of my HIMSS trip this year was participating on a panel entitled, "Separating Disruption from Distraction in Health Care IT." I was joined by experts from IDC, Centura Health, Lahey Health, and Optum, as we discussed how to distinguish real innovation from the "noise" to help IT leaders prioritize initiatives for 2019.
The discussion centered around themes that have become common in our research: the need to build the "digital front door" for patients; the inevitable impact big tech companies (e.g., Amazon, Google) will have on health care; the struggle clinicians face in making sense of new data sources (e.g., social determinants of health, IoT data); and the rising necessity of AI and analytics. The shift to value-based care acts as a catalyst for these imperatives, and it's driven a need for IT leaders to embrace new forms of digital transformation and innovation – so while there is plenty of "noise" out there, that doesn't mean that IT leaders can afford to be complacent. Of course, the change burden should not fall solely on the shoulders of the CIO, but IT will play a foundational role in health system strategy, particularly in the development of digital health systems. Many of the themes coming from the panel discussion aligned directly with our on-demand webconference, "Digital Health Systems: The Innovation Journey Continues."