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Observations from HIMSS 2019

March 06, 2019
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If you want to develop empathy for anyone in the healthcare business, all you have to do is walk the floor at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Conference.

It’s a dizzying array of offerings, ideas, industries and technologies. It’s hard to know where to look or what to think. It reminded me of what it’s like to be a patient. I knew the answers to all of my questions were somewhere in that space, but I didn’t know where to begin, where to look, or how to piece together the information I was finding. Who could I trust?

As I meandered around the space, I felt a great deal of empathy for patients (me, my parents), but also for all the people who work in healthcare and have the job of equipping their businesses. In fact, I’d venture to say that is exactly the feeling HIMSS was trying to evoke, especially at the Interoperability and Innovation showcases. Vignettes of operating suites, hospital rooms, labor and delivery rooms, etc. were on display, highlighting different products assembled to create the experience for the patient, caregivers and families. It felt nice to see recognition of the complexity and interconnectedness of these companies and experiences. But as I mentioned, it also highlighted what a lot of work it must be to choose, integrate and attempt interoperability.

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Attendees tour a mocked-up high-acuity patient room at the HIMSS Conference.
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Mike Leavitt, former governor of Utah and founder of Leavitt Partners, said in the opening keynote said that we are “25 years into a 40-year transition” process in healthcare. This rang true to me. There is already so much innovation and so many changes have occurred, yet there is still so much more to do, that it can feel like we haven’t made any real progress at all. And at this moment in time, the key words that stood out to me from the conference were interoperability, innovation, ecosystems, and partnerships.

The leading technologies that are emerging from big idea to reality were AI, VR and blockchain.   The William Gibson quote, “The future is already here, it’s just not widely distributed yet,” was on display at HIMSS, making it an exciting conference and time in healthcare. It is our collective opportunity to work together to shape the future of healthcare. I met and heard from a lot of amazing people in both public and private sectors tackling this wicked problem head on.

Here are a few things in particular that stood out to me:

  • Exhibitors at HIMSS got the memo on infographics and there were many excellent ones on display. I was struck with how many more visualizations there were of ecosystems than I have seen before. Again, a seeming recognition that context matters, and that having a holistic, human-centered point of view is critical to business success.
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Infographics helped make the complex landscape of healthcare more digestible.
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  • Partnerships were on display in talks, exhibits, showcases, and at corporate booths. Non-obvious partnerships and exhibitors stood out to me as another sign of the future. It is critical to be open to looking at your business and opportunities from a broader, inclusive perspective.
  • Consumerization of healthcare is a hot topic and a natural evolution ... but here is the thing, consumers have high expectations and are demanding more and more recognition, power, and say in their experiences. The healthcare industry will have to leap from where it is now to where consumerism is going to be. It won’t be enough to allow people to shop and compare prices and quality (though that is required), we will also have to understand that consumers are partners in this relationship and that they have power. Their health data belongs to them and they will expect to be recognized and compensated for it.

    One thing is clear, it’s an exciting time in healthcare. With so many elements of the healthcare system at play, those of us involved in designing and crafting these experiences  have a big job ahead of us. We also have a big responsibility to create a system and is human centered, inclusive, and, well, healthy.

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