Healthcare Healthcare Conferences

#HIMSS16 Wrap-Up: Moving Past the Echo Chamber

The conversations happening at HIMSS were very encouraging, but they’ll only mean something if we continue them now that the conference is over. We need to take the innovation and interoperability that is happening in health IT and broadcast that story to providers and patient communities.

Innovate or die

There may not have been a single topic at this year’s HIMSS that emerged as a theme, but plenty of vendors still had a lot to say about precision medicine, population health, and surprisingly to some, patient engagement and interoperability (surprising because many feel that these should be part of what we do everyday, not just trending topics). John Halamka summed up this year’s conference by saying, “buzzwords are dead;” the mantra for providers and vendors is to “innovate or die!” Many of you know and live and breathe it every day.

The health IT marketing community was well represented, with the #HITMC meetup on Monday, #healthITchicks on Tuesday, #HIMSS16 social media ambassadors on Wednesday, and #HITSM panel discussion Thursday. Thought leaders in each of these meetups told the story of innovation.

Not quite a “drop the mic” moment

The #HITSM panel was standing-room only. Corepoint Health’s Chad Johnson introduced the distinguished panel, Mandi Bishop facilitated, and panelists Dr. Rasu Shrestha, Lygeia Ricciardi, David Chou and Drex Deford gave great answers about innovations that would move health IT forward. Answers included universal patient ID, smart sensors, semantic language and natural language processing, IoT, evolving government incentives and other “technologies that liberate the data.” Chuck Webster periscoped the event and even fielded a question for the panel from a viewer in New Zealand.

I saved my own question for the end of the panel, and I was told later it could have been a “drop the mic” moment, as they say. I don’t know about that, but I asked the question, “How will we take the story of innovation in health IT and share it outside of HIMSS?” We were great at nodding our heads in agreement during the panel, but how will we tell this story to our providers, vendors and patient communities? Time constraints prevented the panelists from answering during the event, so I pose the question to you.

The world outside the walls of HIMSS doesn’t necessarily think that this much innovation exists in health IT. They need help deciphering the hope from the hype. They say they are waiting on better tools. But vendors are starting to get it. I was pleasantly surprised when I got a few minutes with one of the VPs at Cerner, and he proceeded to describe how their population health platform is EHR-agnostic. Knowing we only had a brief time to talk, he chose to focus on how their tools connect with others.

We haven’t always been able to say that, but innovation is happening. Open API’s are powering connections. Early adopter clinicians are embracing technology and piloting programs with wearables, smart sensors and mobile everything. Do our stakeholders know that?

For instance,

  • Do elderly caregivers know that a Samsung smartwatch and Reemo software platform allows seniors to operate lights, locks, thermostats, televisions and other appliances with a flick of the wrist, thus reducing falls and allowing staff to provide care based on real-time biometrics and behavioral data?
  • Do oncologists know about the progress of Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong’s Cancer Moonshot 2020 program and the promise of proteomics that renders much of current cancer treatment irrelevant?

Shahid Shah stated during the HITMC meetup that there is no interoperability crisis in health IT. But in many cases there is still a disconnect with clinicians. We tend to agree that clinicians are risk-averse and often wait until they have little choice to adopt new technologies. So let’s accelerate their progress with a little storytelling about those that are.

Biggest takeaway

My takeaway from HIMSS16 is the need to plug into the communities that are clamoring for innovation and let them know it is happening now. Leave the hype at home, be authentic, and use our influence as a community to tell the story of what’s going on in health IT.

Not everyone will listen. We know that. But for the providers who still try to point to the lack of health IT tools, we can show them what’s being developed, who’s using it, and what outcomes they are seeing. And that can lead to further incremental improvement. Wouldn’t it be great if we were talking next year in Orlando about clinicians who finally get what we’re doing? Now that would be innovation.

About the author

Jared Johnson

Jared Johnson

Digital marketing pro, health care communicator, pianist, entrepreneur


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  • Nice recap, Jared. I wish we had more time to get to discuss in more detail your ending question (I do feel bad for the duo who had took the podium after the HITsm buzz and crowd dispersed).

    So the question boils down to: How do we positively influence healthcare providers to introduce innovative tech approaches that benefits patients the most?

    Within that question there are many questions. Many in the government, no doubt, wrestled with when they introduced Meaningful Use. How do we change an industry?

    I don’t have the answer, but maybe changing the industry starts via a free market approach and one hospital. That hospital’s innovative ideas would spread exponentially if the local patients recognized these new approaches and became new “customers,” forcing competing hospitals to take note and change or go out of business. The problem is that patients aren’t very good at being medical customers just yet, plus they may not have the luxury to choose (in the back of an ambulance). But this is changing.

    We also need to do a better job of recognizing hospitals who are leading the way, such as the innovative approach Rasu Shrestha and his team are using at UPMC. Industry observers tend to spend too much time complaining about the many warts to recognize the leaders. “Oh, my aching back!” applies not only to our bodies but to our view of the industry as a whole.

    • Chad, you nailed it — we need to do a better job highlighting the clinicians who are leading the way so that other clinicians see the results of using innovative health IT tools, and empowered patients can be aware of those tools and request them.




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