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#HIMSS18 First Day:  A Haze Of Uncertainty

Posted on March 7, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Entering the HIMSS exhibit area always feels like walking straight into a hurricane. But if you know how to navigate the show, things usually start to come into focus.

There’s a bunch of young, scrappy and hungry startups clustered in a hive, a second tier of more-established but still emerging ventures and a scattering of non-healthcare contenders hoping to crack the market. And of course, there are the dream places put in place by usual suspects like Accenture, SAP and Citrix. (I also stumbled across a large data analytics company, the curiously-named splunk> — I kid you not – whose pillars of data-like moving color squares might have been the most spectacular display on the floor.)

The point I’m trying to make here is that as immense and overwhelming as a show like HIMSS can be, there’s a certain order amongst the chaos. And I usually leave with an idea of which technologies are on the ascendance, and which seem the closest to practical deployment. This time, not so much.

I may have missed something, but my sense on first glance that I was surrounded by solutions that were immature, off-target or backed by companies trying to be all things to all people. Also, surprisingly few even spoke the word “doctor” when describing their product.

For example, a smallish HIT company probably can’t address IoT, population health, social determinants data and care coordination in one swell foop, but I ran into more than one that was trying to do something like this.

All told, I came away with a feeling that many vendors are trapped in a haze of uncertainty right now. To be fair, I understand why. Most are trying to build solutions without knowing the answers to some important questions.

What are the best uses of blockchain, if any? What role should AI play in data analytics, care management and patient interaction? How do we best define population health management? How should much-needed care coordination technologies be architected, and how will they fit into physician workflow?

Yes, I know that vendors’ job is to sort these things like these out and solve the problems effectively. But this year, many seem to be struggling far more than usual.

Meanwhile, I should note that there seems to be a mismatch between what vendors showed up and what providers say that they want. Why so few vendors focused on RCM or cybersecurity, for example? I know that to some extent, HIMSS is about emerging tech rather than existing solutions, but the gap between practical and emerging solutions seemed larger than usual.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m learning a lot here. The wonderful buzz of excited conversations in the hall is as intense as always. And the show is epic and entertaining as always. Let’s hope that next year, the fog has cleared.

Does HIMSS Serve Practicing Doctors Well?

Posted on March 5, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Take a look around you at HIMSS18 and you will see a lot of different types. Of course, the biggest and flashiest presence will be the hordes of vendor marketing and salespeople. You’ll also run into C-suite and mid-level executives with health systems in hospitals or managing partners of large medical practices, along with a grab bag of consultants, researchers, attorneys and bloggers like myself.

What you seldom see, however — and this has been true for decades — are physicians active in day-to-day medical practice. I’m sure the reasons for this vary, including a reluctance to spend the time and money to attend and questions about the show’s immediate value, but regardless, practicing doctors are sorely underrepresented at the annual HIT blast.

In the past, I might’ve suggested that the reason they aren’t showing up was lack of interest. After all, in the past, most physicians had very little contact with their IT infrastructure. Sure, they interacted with billing and coding systems, and to a lesser extent practice management platforms, but that was about it.

That’s hardly the case today, though. For most doctors, it’s smartphones in the morning, tablets in the afternoon and EMRs all day. What’s more, some practices are integrating connected health monitoring and wearables data to the mix and some are rolling out telemedicine services.  While few doctors have to dig into the guts of these tools, they’re increasingly dependent upon them and in some cases, and hardly function without daily access.

Given the extent to which these tools are ultimately designed to serve clinicians at the point of care, it’s disconcerting how seldom HIMSS attendees seem to put clinicians’ IT challenges front and center.

Perhaps I’m being unfair, but my sense is that most of the show is designed to serve health systems CIOs, practice leaders with complex IT needs and to a lesser extent, the influencers that guide sales decisions (such as analyst firms). I’m not saying small-practice doctors get ignored, but from what I’ve seen they don’t get catered to either. In fact, many companies focused on small practices have stopped exhibiting at HIMSS because of this and instead focus on the various medical society conferences.

Sadly, this reflects the larger dynamic in which vendors work to strike deals with senior executives first, putting physician needs largely aside. Rather than seeing to it that the actual end users find the products to be workable, they accept the reality that most cases, non-physicians are calling the shots.

For the benefit of the entire health IT community, I hope that in successive years, HIMSS does far more to attract the 10-doctor and below practices that make up the backbone of the medical community. Letting the deepest pockets in health IT systems dictate everything is simply toxic.