HIMSS18 Recap

Craig Joseph, MD
By: Craig Joseph, MD
Date: March 12, 2018

As another HIMSS conference is in the books, it’s time for me to reflect on what I learned. Here goes nothing!

I predicted that we’d hear a lot about the opioid epidemic, interoperability, and physicians’ increasing demand for usable software. I also predicted that dogs would be a big thing at this year’s conference. I was correct on all counts (except maybe the dogs, but still . . . my batting average isn’t bad.)

The CIO at Stanford Children’s, Ed Kopetsky, gave call-to-arms talks at the CIO Forum and the Physician (AMDIS) Symposium regarding the need to address the opioid epidemic. Tragically, Ed lost a child to opioids, and his heartfelt ask was that those in healthcare IT who can help prevent more deaths stand up and do it. Naturally, CHIME and the HIMSS community responded, and have already kicked off the meetings and conversations about how we can help the healthcare community do more. (If you’d like to learn about the CHIME Opioid Task Force and maybe even signup to help, head over here.)

Interoperability was a thing. It’s always a thing at HIMSS. This year, the former chairman of Alphabet, Eric Schmidt, addressed interoperability as he implored conference attendees to run, run to the cloud. The cloud is safer, more accessible, and more standardized, or so he says. Plus, Google might have cloud services for sale, but that’s probably not relevant to this conversation. There were plenty of vendors who can help with interoperability, and there were plenty of lectures on interoperability. But since no one has “fixed” this yet, I don’t have any breakthroughs to talk about.

I did hear a lot more about physician burnout and what role healthcare IT plays in promoting it than I anticipated. I was at a focus group where a CIO said that anyone in his job who is not concentrating on clinician happiness as tasks #1, #2, and #3 was likely not to be doing that job for much longer. That’s something that I can’t recall hearing in the past. Of course, there are many contributors to clinician burnout as we practice medicine in the United States, but certainly, electronic health records are high on the list. I continue to argue that the EHRs we have are the ones that we’ve asked for in that they support the U.S. healthcare system’s perverse incentives and contradictory goals.

Some more learnings:

Everyone wants to be in the exam room and say “Alexa” or “Ok Google” or “Hey Siri” and then have some virtual assistant do cool things like find the last three potassium results or initiate the standard orders for presumed strep throat. Doctors want to be scrubbed into a procedure and just say a hot phrase followed by “Show me the CT images that I marked as tumor yesterday.” It seems pretty George Jetson-like to me, but . . . vendors were demonstrating this at the show. Or at least something that approaches this. I think the relatively easy part is the natural language understanding; there are a good number of software companies that can parse out what you want and the context of your request. That’s terrific. The rub comes from trying to match a request with a rapid strep test with a real, honest-to-goodness order in the EHR’s procedure file. That’s more difficult.

Mobility and mobile strategy are top of mind for a lot of CIOs and CMIOs. While no one is ready to ditch their WOWs (workstations on wheels) just yet, everyone seems to be moving very quickly in that direction. (HIMSS pro tip: now may not be the right time to invest in that awesome WOW startup that your cousin is kicking off. Just sayin’.) Folks love their phones and tablets and want to use them to the exclusion of everything else. It’s still difficult to order TPN or enter complicated admission orders on your phone, but you can’t blame docs for asking.

Patient engagement was top of mind at HIMSS, and this year, there was acknowledgement that this term means more than cool iPhone or Android apps or social media strategies. As a CIO told me, “If the customer can’t understand the bill we’re sending, that’s a patient engagement problem. If visitors to my hospital can’t find a parking spot, that’s a patient engagement problem.” Some patient engagement issues can be mitigated with technology; others not so much.

Another HIMSS conference is concluded, and if you’re like me, you’re setting your calendar reminder for eight months from now to ensure that you get that hotel room that you like in Orlando. But what you may not realize is this: you can book your #HIMSS19 room right now! I’ll see you in Florida in February 2019.

Craig Joseph, MD, is the Chief Medical Officer at Avaap where he works with healthcare leaders to implement and optimize technology in order to increase physician satisfaction, improve efficiency, and ensure full value of the technology.

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