Showcasing the latest and greatest in all things health IT
by Bradley Smith
March 21, 2018

HIMSS 2018 consisted of about 43,000 people gathered to explore the work of the biggest and brightest tech powers. Health Information and Management Systems Society, or HIMSS, is a nonprofit organization and has developed one of the most impressive events in North America.

Showcasing the latest and greatest in all things health IT (information technology), HIMSS includes cybersecurity, interoperability, AI (artificial intelligence), convergence, data analytics, revenue cycle management, patient engagement, telehealth, FinTech (financial technology tools), remote monitoring and care management, just to name a few.

In addition to the spectrum of health care professionals (including some of your colleagues in DME), many investors attend HIMSS. They know the importance of health IT as a national security issue, as a tool for helping reduce health care costs, and as a way to improve care for patients.

For the average business, health IT capability is a major asset. There’s just one problem—many companies have no idea where to begin the process of moving into this next-generation operational design.

HME Industry Perspectives

After spending time at HIMSS, SuperCare’s John Cassar had this to say about breaking through the technology barriers that exist in the homecare industry: “Significant silos do exist amongst the key applications for homecare providers from data analytics, claims management, patient engagement, telehealth, remote monitoring and care management. They key is to determine what piece of the puzzle you wish to solve in order for you to become a partner in care and to not duplicate or overlap over what is or will be already created.”

Strong Statements at HIMSS

During HIMSS, CMS Administrator Seema Verma inferred that we should be shocked that providers are still using faxes and CD-ROMS! However, many of the people out there who are running businesses are not shocked of course, but they do feel the pressure. They may even feel trapped by their existing system, workflow and mindsets. Change is hard but necessary.

Verma went on to share her version of the future of health care data interoperability centers on the development and implementation of open APIs, which involves a uniform approach. Embracing the open API format will help ensure that new valuable applications can be easily integrated.

The vision of interoperability includes value-based care which are not just EHRs, but the entire digital health information ecosystem (of which the work of the DME is included).

Most providers who attended were looking at their overarching themes of where they are log jammed. Some providers were seeking solutions to unusual issues, though most had typical problems they were solving, such as data management, workflow, process integrations, empowering employees, doing more with less, FinTech, revenue cycle management, big data (within your data) and hundreds of others.

The sheer number of document management solutions on deck at HIMSS were more than I could have possibly imagined. The difficulty was identifying what the problems were and keeping on track with finding specific solutions. Inevitably, I would find solutions to problems I didn’t even know that I had.

John Skoro of XMED Oxygen and Medical Equipment offered the best takeaway of the conference: “I believe HME companies must look beyond our current industry and specific platforms…we need to be thinking not only about all the separate platforms we have to interface with today and how to get those systems talking through APIs (application processing interfaces) electronically, but also what is evolving in the acute and post-acute health care space and what does that mean to us.

“Our industry has been actively chasing connectivity with health system EMRs like Epic, Cerner or Allscripts, but we also need to be asking how are we going to do interface with digital patient engagement platforms or inventory management systems that are beyond these. Why shouldn't our systems be able to automate global workflow like electronically referral intake with Epic to Brightree to digital scheduling, copay collection, inventory replenishment and patient fulfillment encounters?" Skoro continued.

“The amount of IT spending for the acute and post markets versus our industry is analogous to comparing the United States GDP to that of a third-world country—not even in the same universe. As an industry, we have to tap into this development and interject ourselves into this workflow rather than waiting for it to come to us. Otherwise our industry as we know it is likely to disappear before this happens.

“Beyond the industry titans in EMR, you already have companies such as Amazon, IBM, Microsoft and even Uber Health that will be approaching data very differently, and it will be companies like these that will also change the way data is communicated across the health continuum.

“I think all HMEs need to be attending events like HIMSS to gain some perspective and get outside the box to really visualize how data and platforms outside our industry will affect us. I truly believe it will be these systems that are likely to determine the fate of much of our industry. At least, they offer huge opportunities for cost productivity scaling with SaaS (Software as a Service).”

Optimism High on IT as the Ultimate Health Care Problem-Solver

There’s a real can-do attitude that health information technology (HIT) can solve any obstacle in the U.S. health care market. The overall idea is that achieving interoperability and ensuring access to health data will empower patients and reduce waste, fraud and abuse. And, creating more interoperability to use artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and big data will drive greater improvements in how we identify new diseases and treatments.

Judging by the magnitude of some booths at HIMSS and the number of company hats exchanging business cards at each, the HIT industry is flush with cash to make all our home care dreams come true, and their trendy tools are ready to provide economical solutions for health care providers—to either streamline their processes, mine their data, or add value in a thousand other ways.

In my opinion, the biggest challenge for the health IT industry lies in the how the problem is viewed. It is not compartmentalized—it is integrated. Ultimately, with the amount of cash and the positive attitude of the health information technology industry, HIMSS is the gateway to solve the problems of the U.S. health care system. We should all stay tuned.