As the whirlwind of another insightful HIMSS conference settles back into the routine, now is the time to take stock of what we learned — and to consider what it means for the healthcare path ahead. This year, we asked two Medecision experts with distinctly different healthcare vantage points to discuss their key takeaways from HIMSS18.
Tamara Cull, DHA, MSW, LCSW, ACM, is Medecision’s Vice President of Aerial Advisory Services. Her experience includes time as the national director of population health management for a large health system. Donald E. Casey, Jr., MD, MPH, MBA, FACP, is a physician and health policy specialist who now serves as Medecision’s Senior Vice President and Chief of Clinical Affairs.
As you attended sessions and talked with others at HIMSS18, what were some of the newest or biggest challenges for which payers and providers wanted answers?
Dr. Casey: Interoperability was a major theme throughout. In fact, if I had to describe the HIMSS18 experience in two words, I’d say, “Interoperability rules!”
Dr. Cull: Agree! Much about the conference reaffirmed that the biggest challenges remain the same for both payers and providers: 1) how to move to open and interoperable data systems; 2) how to break down existing data silos; 3) how to create more customer-centric technologies; and 4) how to give patients access to their own healthcare data.
In your opinion, why are those challenges more top-of-mind now than, say, at HIMSS17 last year?
Dr. Cull: I think the challenges are more top-of-mind because our ability to change healthcare is dependent on all of the things described above. But in addition, patients are losing patience with their healthcare providers. They expect more from us; they expect the same kind of interoperability they enjoy elsewhere in life.
Dr. Casey: The notion of “data blocking” — and its impact on interoperability — as promoted by CMS Administrator Seema Verma was a new development that really spotlighted the interoperability issue this year. The need for more widespread interoperability among IT vendors seems to be top priority for her currently, as well as for Dr. David Shulkin, Secretary of the VA.
Please tell us about one or two key lessons or strategies you learned during HIMSS18 that you found particularly interesting.
Dr. Casey: The continuing focus on interoperability was most interesting to me in light of the discussion about eliminating the data blocking strategies of some IT vendors.
Dr. Cull: There were a few key focal points for me. As Don mentioned, the first was “The Pledge” by Dr. Shulkin from the VA for open and interoperable systems. Such a pledge could be truly transformative for the entire health IT industry. It really throws down the challenge: Who will follow and also take that pledge?
In addition, the focus on women in health IT was a central theme this year that clearly resonated well with the 43,979 participants. Finally, I was intrigued by the many strategies that highlighted the use of blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) to solve “real world” problems. These areas are gaining a lot of attention; I expect we’ll see much more of that focus in 2018.
From a payer perspective, what would you say were the biggest takeaways from HIMSS18? How about from a provider perspective?
Dr. Cull: I really didn’t see a large payer vs. provider difference this year. Maybe that’s one of the biggest takeaways: as many providers are becoming payers, the markets are clearly merging more and more.
Dr. Casey: Yes, providers are slowly but surely adopting new models — especially those involving population health IT investments — although evolving internal and external interoperability requirements continue to challenge them from an implementation standpoint. From a payer perspective, I saw evidence that CMS is continuing to advance its commitment to value-based care arrangements, thereby helping to accelerate this trend in the commercial markets.