Revisiting HIMSS19 – 5 Takeaways

Angie Howard, In-Practice Technology Services Electronic Health Records (EHR)


A few weeks after HIMSS19 and 5 takeaways are still fresh in my mind from this year’s largest healthcare conference. The most significant announcement came from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and that was the proposed interoperability rule. However, it appears most companies are still “doing their own thing” and believing by developing their own solution it will somehow connect all.

  1. Proposed Interoperability Rule
    With the government not minimally requiring it in the past it wasn’t truly a priority for the healthcare industry. Everyone talks about it and talks about how frustrating it is that healthcare still hasn’t figured out how to share patient data. With the slow progress of interoperability, the proposed rule is suggesting standardizing the way data is shared. CMS is proposing a standard Application Programming Interfaces (API), and this idea will give a standard base for the industry to build on.
  2. AI – Artificial Intelligence
    On February 11, 2019 the President signed an executive order which launched a federal government plan for Artificial Intelligence (AI). According to CMMI Director Adam Boehler, there will be a multimillion-dollar challenge to private industries to redefine quality through AI.
  3. Patient Access to Data
    This issue ties into the proposed interoperability rule. It is well known throughout the industry that it is incredibly difficult for patients and their providers to get access to their health data. As I mentioned above, most EHR vendors, payers, and others in healthcare believe they are doing what it is “required” of them, but they fall short of sharing on a common platform and the patient is left to do the heavy lifting of getting their data where it needs to be for proper care. CMS is using Blue Button API (using HL7 FHIR standards) to connect claims data to applications they trust.
  4. Providers Feelings about their EHR
    It doesn’t take an industry guru to know that providers don’t particularly love their EHRs. However, Judy Faulkner, Epic’s CEO thinks otherwise. Faulkner told Healthcare IT News “recent studies do not prove a correlation between EHRs and job dissatisfaction.” Spending my days helping practices understand and optimize their EHRs, I beg to differ. Perhaps this is a key issue at the heart of most EHR frustration by end-users – those at the helm of running an EHR don’t spend enough time in practices, on site to understand the issues they face each day, the stress and burnout that an “out of the box” EHR can create. If more of these leaders could spend a week at a “Go-Live” and then follow up 6 months later with a visit, they would see that providers are still struggling with the basics of available functionality. Although EPIC’s client base isn’t provider practices – this product is being used by ambulatory clinics, who in my opinion spend the most time with patients and have the closest relationships to those patients. MedCityNews has since done a follow up article on EHR and Physician Burnout that is worth a read.
  5. Wearables
    Although healthcare still can’t connect patient data, we are moving forward with technology which will assist patients and physicians with healthcare decision making. Wearables have been a hot topic for the last few years, and this year at HIMSS19 wearable companies such as VitalConnect showcased some useful products. VitalConnect has a solution called “VitalPatch”. This patch monitors 8 vital signs, including; single lead ECG, Heart Rate, Heart Rate Variability, Respiratory Rate, Skin Temperature, Body Posture, Fall Detection, and Activity. This device is water resistant, wireless, and weighs about the same as 2 nickels. I can see this being very useful for patients who need/want to track their vitals, are experiencing cardiac symptoms, or for older patients who are at risk for falling.

HIMSS offers valuable information and is a great platform to showcase what’s next in healthcare, address common healthcare issues, and to discuss possible solutions to issues such as data sharing and one common platform.

I don’t think in 2019 we will get great breakthroughs in some of the topics covered at HIMSS19, however we are headed in the right direction. The most promising of all is that the patient experience and care seem to be at the center of much wanted progress.