Healthcare IT Insights, Trends and a Look Ahead: Hot Topics From HIMSS17


Attending a HIMSS conference is no easy feat, especially when it comes to your feet. With attendees sometimes walking more than 10 miles each day, HIMSS17 in Orlando, Florida, was abuzz with 42,000+ people gathering to talk about the latest and greatest in healthcare technology. For everyone zigzagging back and forth across the conference’s massive exhibition hall, attending engaging education sessions or rushing to networking receptions or events, good shoes at HIMSS17 were a must.

Of course, HIMSS is much more than the number of steps logged. To get to the heart of what made HIMSS17 special, we reached out to three healthcare influencers who attended the conference, who are deeply engaged with the healthcare IT social community. With so much activity, it was impossible to cover everything, but here are some key topics and highlights from HIMSS17 that you don’t want to miss.

Meet our interviewees:

  • Colin Hung is co-founder of the Healthcare Leadership Twitter community (#hcldr), one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on the Internet. Colin is also VP of Marketing at Stericycle Communication Solutions, where he advocates for the adoption of patient-centric healthcare technology. Follow Colin on Twitter: @Colin_Hung.

  • Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, of THINK-Health and Health Populi blog, is a health economist, adviser and trend-weaver at the intersection of healthcare, technology and people. Follow Jane on Twitter: @HealthyThinker.

  • M. Maxwell Stroud, a Lead Consultant at Galen Healthcare Solutions, has a professional background in both healthcare and social work. Follow Max on Twitter: @MMaxwellStroud.

What was your favorite session at HIMSS17?

Selfishly speaking, my favorite HIMSS17 session was the informal #HITsm and #hcldr meetup. This spontaneous gathering was a return to the grassroots approach that defines both communities. The gathering generated a lot of great discussion and ideas on how to improve healthcare.

Sarasohn-Kahn: A special lunchtime session at HX360 with Dan Rather, talking about the current state of politics and national dialogue, will resonate with me for a long time. I will also mention my own session, on Social Health IT: “How Digital Tech Can Boost the Social Determinants of Health.” I thank HIMSS for the opportunity to share perspectives on this important topic, but more importantly, I appreciated the many questions, discussions and tweets the session generated.

Stroud: My favorite session had to be Kate and Katherine Sheridan’s session: “Lessons from an Empowered Patient and Their Caregiver.” Not only was their story incredibly powerful, they were able to show how they are using the lessons from their personal experiences and research to demonstrate that when patients are actively involved in their care—as collaborators with their team—health outcomes improve. This is qualitatively different from so many “patient engagement” apps on display on the exhibition floor in that the research and the tool are rooted in the patient experience. These conversations are going to be critical as we move into the next era of health IT.

What topic was hottest, either in session themes or in on-the-ground conversation?

I found that artificial intelligence (AI) was the hottest topic of conversation. AI seemed to be everywhere. There were conversations about AI being used in clinical settings to help make treatment recommendations, to help detect healthcare fraud and to power population health initiatives. A lot of people were talking about the applications for IBM’s Watson—a definite hot topic of conversation.

Population health and patient engagement got a lot of buzz, and rightfully so: We can’t get to the Triple Aim without either component.

Stroud: What was most meaningful to me was the thread of connections I made with people who really care deeply about improving healthcare. I met developers, CEOs and researchers whose origin stories about their work were rooted in personal experiences that moved them to say, “We can do better.” When passion for people and improved care is at the heart of your organization, they cannot help but shape the way in which you approach the world and bring your solutions to bear. The people who are going to change healthcare are not going to be the ones looking only for profit in a growing market, but the ones who are moved to improve the system as a whole.

What was your key takeaway from HIMSS17?

My main takeaway from HIMSS17 was actually something from the “negative space”: that there was barely a mention of patient portals and interoperability. It was almost as if the industry had moved on from focusing on these formerly hot-button issues.

Sarasohn-Kahn: Patients/consumers are now an integral focus at HIMSS, critical for user-centered design.

Stroud: We can do better.

What should be the top three priorities for Health IT professionals within their respective organizations?

1. Include patients in defining your priorities and product designs. 2. Data security, especially as cyber attacks continue to grow in prevalence. 3. Optimizing EHRs, to wring as much value from past EHR investment as soon as possible.

Sarasohn-Kahn: 1. Adopt user-centered design principles and co-create with users (especially patients). 2. Embrace your role in the overall strategy of your healthcare organization. 3. Be a good data steward, protecting and securing peoples’ personal health information. Not doing so endangers trust, and ultimately, patient engagement and the organization’s market share.

1. Mission: Always remember that the goal is always patient care. We can easily get caught up in profit, market share or the next new snazzy invention, but the technology that is going to be the most successful and have the greatest ROI is going to be the one that puts patient care at the forefront. 2. Diversify your teams: The next generation of solutions is going to be brought forward by teams that can look at problems from different angles and develop creative solutions. The more diverse the team is, the broader the perspectives. 3. Move from a “sick” system to a “health” system: Our current system is based on treating those who are sick, not providing care to those who are healthy. We know that prevention, outreach, public health and education efforts can have a dramatic effect on the health of populations, and payors are starting to see the ROI on prevention and engagement efforts.

What do you think will be the hot topics for HIMSS18?

I believe that the hot topics for HIMSS18 will be: The impact of changes to the ACA; the continued entry of traditional B2B and B2C companies into healthcare; and patient-generated data—how to use it and incorporate it into the EHR.

Sarasohn-Kahn: Addressing the growing need for risk management in terms of both financial risk and patients’ and consumers’ demands for both client service (read: retail experience) and financial wellness.

Stroud: Infrastructure and architecture of the systems that support patient care are going to see a lot of change. There will be an increase in the use of cloud-based systems for patient care. Insurance carriers are going to be looking at tools for population health and preventative care that really make a difference in health outcomes.

Special thanks to Colin, Jane and Max for their time and insights. Though 10 miles a day can be exhausting on our feet, we all went home after HIMSS with renewed energy and determination to transform healthcare through information technology. At Spectrum Enterprise, we’re committed to providing the foundational connectivity required to enable the advancement of healthcare, both today and tomorrow.


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