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RED HOT Contributors


Emerging trends at HIMSS—focusing on practical uses of IT


As another HIMSS Conference wraps up, it’s time to reflect on the overall perceptions of all that was seen and experienced. This always takes me some time. As an editor, I’ve almost invariably gotten this question, usually at one of my first Monday morning meetings at the conference: “So, what are you hearing at HIMSS this year?”

It’s the dreaded question—I’m forced to make up an answer that seems educated, even when I can barely remember where my hotel is. “Let’s see, what I am hearing…well, the exhibit hall is the size of six aircraft carriers; people are getting hungry at odd hours and falling asleep while standing in the line at Starbucks; everyone wants to win a big prize on the show floor and go home. Yes, I believe those are my main observations.”

This morning, as I thought about the many conferences, sessions and meetings I was able to enjoy this year, I realized that none of them really stood out as being weird, techy, esoteric, way beyond the cutting edge or wacky.

Wait, a HIMSS conference where almost everything made sense?

In all the events and meetings, I could come away nodding affirmatively that the information technology being discussed made sense, was practical and met a specific use that could make an impact on care delivery or efficiency.

For those of you who are veterans of HIMSS conferences of yore, you’ll understand that the notion of using technology in practical ways isn’t always the case at HIMSS.

Some conferences have been co-opted by blazing hot trends, like population health or interoperability. Educational session presenters may try to veer their offerings to try and include those buzz words, and vendors may center their discussions on what they’re doing in response to those trends, even if they’re early in those efforts. These hot trends often reflect important directions in the industry, but are not always immediately applicable to providers’ needs.

Other conferences are stolen away by new technology capabilities or gadgets. Remember back 15 years ago when prescription orders were going to be filled on PDAs? There were dozens of startup exhibitors, each showing one narrowly focused application running on a specific PDA. Of course, that faded away rather quickly.

And at other HIMSS conferences, meetings with vendors often gave the sense the meeting was more about the vendor than the relevance of their solutions. I remember one meeting years ago with a company, which shall remain nameless to protect the innocent—eight reps from a new subsidiary of a company piled into the meeting room, and they each spoke for several minutes about what the company was going to be attempting to do. I came out of the idea feeling like they had no focus to their efforts, and the initiative was soon scuttled.

But this year’s HIMSS struck me as one in which real-world solutions were aimed at real-world problems. This is a trend that has been growing almost imperceptibly at recent HIMSS conferences, and it’s really a key development that’s crucial for providers.

Those walking the show floor and attending educational sessions want to know what’s coming down the pike, of course. Neat and cool technology is fascinating mind-candy for many of us (otherwise, we’d pick less exciting jobs). But it’s crucial to connect the technology to problems that IT executives will return to on Monday morning.

A population health management application that enables granular ability to manage individual patients, including their social and logistical needs to access care? That’s dead on for most providers.

A way to back up patient data to the cloud to enable providers to have emergency data center services and, bonus, enable immediate backup in case of a ransomware attack? Heaven on a bun.

I’ll just pull out one more example from one of my last meetings at HIMSS. Hamilton Health Sciences, based in Hamilton, Ontario, is using technology from Toronto-based ThoughtWire, which combines data streaming from Internet of Things devices with artificial intelligence for a variety of purposes. In the realm of patient care, the technology is able to forewarn staff of potential Code Blue calls, using a grading scale to launch pre-emptive interventions before patients are even in danger. Code calls have been reduced, and the organization has set the audacious goal of eliminating Code Blues in the future. There’s also less stress and pressure on staff, as a result.

We appear to be reaching an age when various types of technology can be brought together to achieve real results within providers’ walls. Now that’s a trend we can live with at future HIMSS conferences.

Now if they only could solve that long line at Starbucks, everything would be golden.

Fred Bazzoli

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