Focus on patients driving innovation in health care IT at HIMSS 2018

 In IT News/Events, News

Amid all the debate about the future of health care lies one common focal point: the patient. Politicians, health care providers, payments experts, and other stakeholders may have different views or approaches, but they’re all committed to keeping patients at the center of care. Increasingly, the practical means of doing so is falling on technology.

More than 43,000 health care IT professionals and vendors gathered last week at the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Conference to engage, discuss, and collaborate on ways technology can improve patient care, and the limitations or risks that might exist as health care providers embrace newer models of computing. Here are some of the key takeaways and announcements we saw from our spot on the HIMSS 2018 Exhibit Hall floor.

“Get to the cloud, run to the cloud.”

These were the opening words of advice—or perhaps, warning—from lead-off keynote speaker and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. His message was clear: The health care industry needs to embrace new innovative IT solutions that are designed to resolve large key issues they’re facing.

Consumers are changing the way they consume health care, choosing more convenient, expedient methods like telehealth/telemedicine or a local pharmacy, CVS Minute Clinic, or Urgent Care. At the same time, health care institutions are collecting data from IoT devices, EMR records, and patient-generated health information. The result is an explosion of data that needs to be collected, consolidated, and made available to consumers.

A widely accepted, but false, belief that health care data is safest within a proprietary data center is slowing the adoption of cloud services and inhibiting progress and real-time patient access to their records. However, the rising costs of self-managing data centers may soon make doing so unattainable.

New partnerships such as Cerner’s with Amazon Web Services are evidence that the leading cloud partners are serious about data security and compliance and have taken steps to ensure their services adhere to HIPAA requirements.

Security concerns persist

And yet, data suggests that health care’s security worries are not unfounded. The HIMSS 2018 Cybersecurity Survey found that more than 75 percent of health care organizations experienced a significant security incident in the past 12 months, and 61 percent of the respondents stated that email was the main source of the incident.

But email isn’t the only threat. In a presentation about HIPAA compliance and engagement, Roger Severino, Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, highlighted the failure to manage identified risk (encryption/endpoint protection on devices), failure to install patch updates of software, and insider threats as common vulnerabilities.

Severino also noted that in the past year the Department has handed out more than $11 million in fines to health care organizations that experienced public breaches affecting 500 or more people, indicating that the industry really does have a ways to go in protecting patient data. For starters, he said health care organizations should review all vendor and contractor relationships to ensure BAAs are in place and address security incident obligations, dispose of protected health information that has been marked for disposal promptly, and provide ongoing organization and job-specific training.

Keeping the patient at the center of care

I enjoy HIMSS not only for the forum it provides to talk about the issues facing the health care industry but for the practical and often outside-the-box solutions that are introduced there. As new problems or challenges emerge, we’re seeing unique collaborations and advancements to address those areas of need. Here are a few that stood out to me:

  • Overcoming lack of transportation: Each year, over 3.5 million patients miss their medical appointments because of transportation issues. Lyft has partnered with Allscripts to integrate its ride-hailing app into the EMR, enabling physicians at 2,500 hospitals across the U.S. to arrange round-trip transportation for patients to medical appointments, and bill it for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.
  • Addressing addiction: Every day, more than 115 Americans die from an opioid overdose, and the estimated overall cost of prescription misuse is $78.5 billion per year. Medicomp Systems has introduced a new care management system that treats opioid addiction. The program integrates with any hospital’s EMR system and allows hospitals to monitor the patient back into recovery.
  • Improving caregiver efficiency while protecting patients: According to the CDC, approximately 1.7 million health care-associated infections occur in U.S. hospitals each year. SHI partner HP Inc. has rolled out a new line of devices built specifically for doctors and nurses that focus on hygiene, safety, security, and privacy. Unlike standard PCs that can become corroded and damaged by germicidal wipes, the new devices are designed to handle daily sanitization to prevent infections. In addition, built-in privacy screens and RFID allow doctors and patients to easily and securely log on to their devices.

Overall, HIMSS is the perfect blend of education, collaboration, and introduction to new solutions designed to address the health care industry’s biggest, most persistent, and emerging issues. Moving to the cloud and buttoning up security continue to be concerns, but innovations and partnerships from organizations both in and outside the industry are fueling progress. I look forward to seeing what advancements another year will bring at HIMSS 2019.

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