Patient Engagement and Healthcare Technology Integration were the Stars Of HIMSS 2017

Industry trade shows always have some sort of buzz — those two or three topics that really dominate conversations among attendees. The hot topics at this year’s massive Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Conference (HIMSS) were patient engagement and healthcare technology which are particularly noteworthy because of just how real they are.

That’s because the buzz was driven by value-based healthcare, a complete redesign of reimbursement calculation already well underway by Medicare and some of the industry’s largest private payers. Nobody has to wonder if these ideas are going to come to fruition or if a change in facility policies or consumer behaviors will alter them. The 800 pound gorilla of healthcare coverage has committed to this transformation and it is most definitely happening.

As we chatted with clients, partners and competitors, three big ideas driving healthcare technology development came up again and again. They are all closely related to the massive shift in how providers get paid, but patients will also be tremendous benefactors of operational and procedural changes to healthcare management.

Patient engagement is all that matters. Providers face a pretty substantial dilemma: Patient outcomes are becoming the prime determinant of reimbursement amounts, but there is so much that goes into those outcomes that is out of their control. If a patient with a brand new knee has to be readmitted because he didn’t follow post-operative care properly once discharged, the hospital could get penalized for that. Providers are being held accountable for more than they can directly oversee and they know that engaging with patients is key to keeping costs down. Of course, it also results in healthier and happier patients.

There is a tremendous need for healthcare technology platforms that engage patients throughout their entire care episodes, from pre-operative education all the way to full recovery. Providers want it to be easy for them to integrate across multidisciplinary teams of clinicians, marketers, accountants, and even human resource departments. The front-end for patients has to be easy to navigate and ready to engage with patients on the channels they use most (supporting mobile channels is an absolute must). Just a few years ago, the industry was focused on population health, but now it is all about engaging with individuals in user-friendly and personalized ways.

Seamless integration is a must-have. The amount of data that is collected and processed for any care episode is immense and it would be impossible for any single solution to manage absolutely everything perfectly. Instead, providers are looking to build out networks of technology that best support their unique service offerings and patient demands; but if those systems can’t talk to each other, it creates way too much extra work and opportunities for error.

Open APIs are becoming absolutely essential to integrate all of the different solutions serving the complex array of functionalities that providers and health systems need. There is no more room in the marketplace for platforms that can not easily integrate with enterprise EMR and any other system a provider uses. “This solution can do everything you need” is dead in the water. It’s been replaced by “this solution can easily share data with any other technology that you have.”

Healthcare tech is moving at the speed of consumer tech. Healthcare technology has lagged behind consumer technology for decades. That is changing as even the largest healthcare systems are replacing clunky enterprise solutions with new platforms that solve value-based healthcare problems and engage with patient populations using the communication methods they prefer. The industry is at a critical mass where these ideas are driving healthcare IT development and the provider market is eager to adopt new solutions.

This is moving at breakneck speed. As recently as last year, some major technology providers were just beginning to scratch the surface of this idea. But at this year’s conference, it was easy to see how much time and effort has been spent building interfaces that are easier to consume and incorporating ubiquitous technology. The designs of the past that favored workflow optimization over ease of use have been dumped, and providers couldn’t be happier about it.  

HIMSS provided a great opportunity for healthcare industry stakeholders to see what the future holds for IT solutions. It was also affirming for us here at Sequence Health to see that the market is craving what we offer — a healthcare technology solution that puts patients at the center of a model that drives engagement, cuts costs and integrates cross-functional teams and technologies.