5 Top Takeaways from HIMSS 2019



Top 5 Healthcare IT Trends from HIMSS 2019

Hosted in Orlando, Florida, and welcoming attendees from over 90 countries, the HIMSS conference is an important global event for the healthcare technology space. From interoperability to cybersecurity, HIMSS19 covered an array of healthcare IT trends. Of all the panels and content shared during the week of HIMSS19, here are five takeaways that can help you improve the way you handle data today.

1. Interoperability

Interoperability — the process of securely sharing healthcare information between care providers and entities — was an obvious buzzword at HIMSS19. And with good reason: Interoperability is a fascinating topic with growing significance as the healthcare industry adapts to changes in technology.

When sensitive PHI is transferred between parties, maintaining patient privacy is a top priority. Along with interoperability, then, comes the responsibility to restrict access to only those with a need-to-know. By driving organization-wide awareness and compliance of HIPAA, GDPR, and similar regulations, organizations can transfer data while the security of EHR. This also opens the door to more fewer barriers between patients and their own data.

“Let me be very clear: patient data belongs to the patients.” –Seema Verna, Administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights (OCR) commented at HIMSS19 that healthcare organizations can expect new enforcement actions around a patient’s right to access their own data. OCR Director Roger Severino, in fact, asserted that patients will be empowered by patient portals and the ability to access their own data, whether 1 month or 10 years after care. With this in mind, the   The bottom line with interoperability is that meaningful unification of data leads to better care and greater value for patients.

2. Analytics and AI

With the popularity of artificial intelligence steadily increasing, healthcare professionals are left to wonder – will artificial intelligence replace the workforce? Mike Lyons, Director of Product Development at Imprivata FairWarning, spoke at HIMSS to address those concerns.

“AI is an extremely powerful tool. We need to be conscious of how we implement it. It should be used to empower humans – not replace them.” – Mike Lyons, Director of Product Development at Imprivata FairWarning

When implemented ethically, AI and machine learning helps healthcare professionals not only collect, but also interpret, data and build an action plan based on insights.

Lyons continued, “The data that gets fed into AI is categorized and normalized by humans. We can introduce our own human bias that gets covered up by the AI.” Even with the implementation of machine learning, humans must remain at the helm to interpret and take action on the information that AI collects.

3. Cybersecurity and the Cloud

Security has always been tantamount to healthcare. And it’s never been more essential to safeguarding patient health records than now, when facilities are actively shifting to cloud-based storage. At their presentation, “Digital Health: Defining the Future of Healthcare,” Mike Reagin, Sentara Healthcare Senior Vice President and CIO, addressed how they tackled their own cybersecurity concerns when building a cloud-centric patient experience.  When moving to a cloud-based infrastructure, they had to “rethink security from the ground up. The traditional, perimeter-based security is different in the cloud.”

Tom Stafford, VP and CIO of Halifax Health, also expressed the importance of cybersecurity for healthcare and PHI storage. He stressed the need to protect patient information against “the bad guys trying to get our data” by protecting facilities from common threats such as email phishing scams, as well as establishing 2-factor authentication. These basic protections galvanize organizations from being left wide open to security threats.

“You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and if you’re working with a company that’s not that strong, then you’re not that strong.” — Tom Stafford, VP & CIO, Halifax Health

4. Value-Based Healthcare

There’s been a compelling shift in healthcare from the typical fee-for-service model to value-based care. The latter pays providers based on patient outcomes, representing a huge shift in mindset and the approach to care?

“It’s hard to deny at this point the shift from fee-for-service to fee-for-value.” — Rush Health Chief Analytics Officer James Grana

There are several benefits to value-based care over fee-for-service, including:

  • Patients spend less to reach better health
  • Providers’ top priority is the satisfaction of their patients
  • Greater patient control over their own healthcare
  • Prices are aligned with outcomes

This way, the focus shifts from the management of chronic illnesses to prevention and seeking solid outcomes.

5. Combatting Drug Diversion

The subject of drug diversion — “any illegal act or deviation that removes a prescription drug from its intended path from the manufacturer to the patient” — has gained urgency in recent years with the rise of the opioid epidemic; the topic made inroads at this year’s. With heavy impacts on providers concerned with patient safety from staff struggling with opioid addiction, the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration are using every resource they can to learn more and combat diversion.

Equal emphasis, however, is needed to treat healthcare professionals who have fallen into addiction while protecting patients who are affected by it. Establishing a drug diversion program keeps drug diverters from doing harm at multiple hospitals. If cases go unreported, “they go from facility to facility, and this is what we have to put a screeching halt to,” says Commander John Burke, President/Owner, Pharmaceutical Diversion Education Inc.

“There are so many different drug diversion red flags, and you won’t see one worker check off all the boxes. They know the system, so it helps to have coworkers on alert.” — Imprivata FairWarning Drug Diversion Specialist Kara Earle

Armed with the knowledge of what to do and how to provide treatment for addicts, facilities are better able to protect patients from the dangerous risks of drug diversion.

With healthcare IT gaining more and more traction, the HIMSS conference is essential in the industry.  Although so much happened this year that it’s challenging to condense all that insight, these takeaways will keep you innovating at the speed of technological change.