Key Takeaways from HIMSS2023
In this blog
As HIMSS2023, one of the largest medical conferences in the world, returned to its pre-pandemic glory, the excitement was palpable at McCormick Place in Chicago from global leaders in public and private healthcare systems, worldwide vendors, consultancies, pharmaceutical giants, start-up hopefuls, attendees from six continents and just about anyone else who participates in the health tech ecosystem.
One thing that all can agree upon is that digital and data transformation is sweeping across the healthcare sector and is rapidly reshaping traditional practices and paradigms. Driven by innovative technologies and an increasing demand for personalized, accessible and efficient care, this transformation is bringing generative AI, enhanced cybersecurity, non-traditional entrants, improved clinician experience, patient engagement, interoperability, cloud strategy and healthcare equity to the forefront as key takeaways from this year's Global Conference and Exhibition.
Below are Dr. Eric Quiñones's key takeaways from the conference.
Generative AI has emerged as a game-changing technology in healthcare. Its ability to generate new, previously unseen data based on learned patterns offers significant potential for accelerating drug discovery, simulating complex biological systems and devising personalized treatment plans. Leveraging the power of AI and machine learning, healthcare providers can make more accurate diagnoses and develop more effective treatments, ultimately improving patient outcomes. However, although this exponentially expanding silicon workforce is up-and-coming, many are cautiously optimistic because of challenges in security and privacy, bias, liability, ethical pitfalls, over-reliance and trust.
As healthcare institutions become more reliant on digital systems, the protection of sensitive patient data and the security of connected medical devices are of paramount importance. According to Check Point Research, healthcare organizations worldwide averaged 1,463 cyberattacks per week in 2022, up 74 percent compared with 2021. In addition, US healthcare entities suffered an average of 1,410 weekly cyberattacks per organization, up 86 percent vs. 2021. Healthcare organizations must invest in robust cybersecurity measures to safeguard against cyber-attacks, data breaches and ransomware. Implementing encryption technologies, developing comprehensive risk management strategies and providing regular training for employees on cybersecurity best practices is crucial to seeking a zero-trust environment.
The digital transformation of healthcare has been attracting a new wave of non-traditional entrants, including technology giants like Amazon; big-box retailers like CVS, Walmart and Walgreens; and startups like Forward Health. These companies leverage cutting-edge technologies to develop innovative healthcare solutions, drive competition and push the industry to evolve. From telemedicine platforms to remote patient monitoring systems, these players are reshaping healthcare delivery and enhancing patient experiences. Plain and simple, they are focused on customer delight, built chiefly on modern IT infrastructures and access to vast amounts of capital which many traditional healthcare systems need to improve.
Digital technologies in healthcare have the potential to improve the clinician's work-life significantly. Electronic health records (EHRs) have their purpose but have failed to reduce clinician pain points. Technologies, such as ambient AI NLP, promise to reduce a significant friction area that leads to burnout by auto-documenting and teeing up clinical orders while the patient and clinician are conversing. Telemedicine and remote monitoring technologies enable clinicians to provide care from a distance, increasing accessibility and convenience for patients and providers. Advanced analytics possesses time-saving automation allowing clinicians to work at the top of their license and scale. For example, computer vision in medical imaging can reduce workload, improve diagnosis and enhance document annotation. All these things improve the radiologist's workflow. By harnessing these technologies, healthcare professionals can focus on delivering quality care and enhancing job satisfaction and patient outcomes.
Digital transformation is revolutionizing the healthcare landscape by empowering patients to take an active role in their health journey. Patients can now remotely access care, monitor vital signs and independently manage their well-being through wearable devices, mobile applications, comprehensive digital marketplaces and virtual care platforms. These advancements foster patient autonomy, encourage proactive behavior and enhance the overall healthcare experience.
As the commercialization of healthcare continues to unfold, people have come to expect the same level of service found in the retail industry, such as Amazon, and the hospitality sector, like the Ritz-Carlton. Patients seek round-the-clock support and care and assurance that their care team is proactively monitoring their well-being. They also desire transparent cost estimates for their care before receiving it. A collaborative and supportive relationship with their care team is crucial to patients who want accessible healthcare that suits their preferences—whether it's remote, hospital-at-home, in-person or asynchronous. The healthcare journey should be seamless, intuitive and well-guided, eliminating the hurdles and disconnected aspects of the current system.
As the healthcare industry becomes increasingly digitized, the need for seamless data exchange among providers, payers and patients has never been more critical. Interoperability is the capability of healthcare systems to communicate and share information effectively, which is essential for improving care coordination, eliminating gaps in evidence-based medicine (EBM) benchmarks and ultimately improving patient outcomes. Healthcare organizations can foster better collaboration, reduce errors and enhance decision-making processes by implementing standardized data formats and promoting open, secure communication channels.
Although adopting cloud computing in healthcare has lagged behind other industries, it is becoming apparent that it offers numerous benefits when securely and strategically planned, including increased storage capacity, scalability and cost-effectiveness. By implementing a well-planned cloud strategy, healthcare organizations can store, manage and analyze vast amounts of data securely and efficiently. This enables healthcare providers to leverage big data analytics and artificial intelligence to gain valuable insights, optimize resource allocation and enhance patient care. In addition, it provides the necessary environment for healthcare systems to be empowered in achieving their clinical and operational goals.
Digital transformation in healthcare has the potential to address the long-standing social determinants of health (SDoH) disparities and improve health equity. By leveraging digital tools and data-driven insights, healthcare organizations can identify gaps in care, tailor interventions to specific populations and monitor the impact of these efforts. Telemedicine, remote patient monitoring and other digital technologies also expand access to care, particularly for those in underserved or remote areas. In addition, by prioritizing healthcare equity, digital transformation efforts can help create a more inclusive healthcare system that serves the needs of all patients.
Virtual care and telehealth are essential components of the digital transformation in healthcare, as they enable remote delivery of care services and consultations. By leveraging digital communication platforms, healthcare providers can connect with patients from the comfort of their own homes, breaking down geographic barriers and increasing accessibility. Telehealth services also facilitate more efficient use of resources, as clinicians can provide care to more patients without being constrained by physical locations. Furthermore, virtual care and telehealth platforms enhance care continuity, as patients can easily access follow-up consultations and ongoing care management, ultimately leading to better patient outcomes.
Kenneth Estes, WWT Engineering Manager, summarized the sessions he attended.
Data Modernization According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Future of Healthcare Crises took place on April 19th, 2023. This panel discussion covered readiness and the public health data strategy. Focused discussions on lessons learned from the pandemic COVID-19 and what some of the gaps were that need to be addressed. This discussion was focused on preparedness for a future healthcare crisis. CDC has added a new office called Office of Public Health Data, Surveillance, and Technology (OPHDST), led by Jennifer Layden, that focuses on better serving the public with real-time data, and is directly responsible for owning the Public Health Data Strategy and ensuring data is clean and accurate.
Dylan George is the director of operations for CDC & Preventions Center and is responsible for improvements in data analytics and the messaging to decision-makers. George also stated that when a new pandemic occurs, "We are in this transformational moment to build the better data, the better analytics for that better response. We need these systems to be ready, we need these systems to be more robust, and we need these systems to keep Americans safe in a time of crisis."
Partnerships will also be engaged to help with the overall ecosystem and the modernization that is needed to ensure success.
Health Equity by Design is in the process of development by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC). The deputy director of ONC's Office of Policy Elisabeth Myers was present at the event. Tom Mason stated that provided insight to ensure that health equity is a first thought versus a secondary one. This health equity by design is focused on IT systems mainly around interoperability of data that is collected, AI and the digital divide.
One of the topics discussed was the task force that looks at:
- Implementing health equity by design
- Data collection
- Digital divide
- Data Interoperability / APIs
Elisabeth Myers stated, "If we can all be using that same baseline data and infrastructure, we can spend more money on the program and less money in building siloed systems, but we can also ensure that that information coming from clinicians can be used for lots of purposes that it needs to be."
The direction is to leverage APIs to provide an easier method of moving data between different systems. An example was given around clinicians having the ability to access and share data. This is a challenge to better understand and define how that data looks in order to provide data sharing and exchange. Ryan Argentieri, the deputy director of the Office of Technology at ONC, stated that "this is where the U.S. Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI) comes into play." The USCDI creates standards for data elements and standardizes health data classes and allows for better interoperability and facilitates the exchange of that data.
NIST's Secure Data-Sharing Platform (SFDS) provides a trusted gateway to clinical data. This panel of NIST researchers included:
- Chris Compton, Computer Scientist (NIST)
- Joanna DeFranco, Associate Professor of Software Engineering, Pennsylvania State, & NIST Guest Researcher
- David Ferraiolo, Manager, Secure Systems and Application Group (NIST)
- Joshua Roberts, Computer Scientist (NIST)
The exchange of access control (attributes not data) across a trusted federation was discussed. Data comes in different formats, the idea is you do not transmit the data but rather share trusted attributes across a trusted federation approach is used.
Instead of transmitting data back and forth and granting users access to that data within that organization (access control policies), attributes enable trust. So, each organization has its own access control system (Next Generation DB access) and is based on attributes that a user has. This will enhance collaboration and allow for grant/researchers to have a better experience with data sharing for clinical research.
- Initially, this was targeted for sharing medical records, allowing for allowing/disallowing.
- The goal would be to make sharing patient data as mobile as possible.
- Security trends health information is very valuable (50x more valuable than a credit card) and must be protected.
There is still a great deal of work to be done in our industry to achieve the Quintuple Aim of Healthcare: improve patient and population outcomes, lower the cost of care, deliver an exceptional patient experience, reduce burnout and improve the work-life of clinicians, and address the SDoH so all have equity in their care. However, it was apparent at HIMSS23 that integrating generative AI, enhanced cybersecurity, non-traditional disruptors, clinician experience, patient engagement and experience, interoperability, cloud strategy, healthcare equity, and virtual care drives innovation and pushes the industry to new heights and brings us closer to what we know healthcare should be.