Reflecting on HIMSS 2017: 3 Key Trends from the Healthcare Industry’s Biggest Disruptors

HIMSS sign, courtesy of FierceHealthcare

Image courtesy of FierceHealthcare

It’s a pivotal time for the healthcare industry. Healthcare has a reputation for being slow to adopt technologies, but innovators in the industry are showing that they’re ready to turn to health IT strategies to disrupt the way our health system operates.

 

Some of the greatest minds in healthcare gathered at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s annual conference last month to discuss the latest innovations and trends driving this evolution in healthcare. The most prevalent topic at HIMSS this year was the influx of data, what to do with it and how to protect it. Here are a few takeaways from the conference and how we predict they will evolve:

 

AI and the New Cognitive Era

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty kicked off the show with a keynote on the potential of cognitive computing to unlock a new “golden age” in healthcare. Rometty suggested that artificial intelligence has the power to free clinicians to engage more deeply in their primary interests by doing much of the legwork for them.

 

Rometty’s take on the ability of AI to transform the healthcare industry was not surprising given the overwhelming hype of machine learning technologies, as well as IBM Watson Health’s research and development activities over the past two years. However IBM isn’t the only company with its eyes on AI.

 

While Rometty herself admitted that AI in healthcare is a bit of a “moonshot”, companies in the industry are already proving its impact. During the conference, M*Modal announced that its AI-based clinical documentation solutions enabled physicians to free up more than 2 million hours of their time that would have otherwise been spent documenting it. And Nuance revealed results that proved clinicians can save up to 45 percent on documentation time with a 30 percent drop in errors when using their solutions.

 

The Rise of the Empowered, Engaged Patient

Knowledge is power for patients, yet historically patients have been left in the dark regarding their health data. One argument frequently raised at the conference was that patients should be allowed access to their data, especially if it can help them track and manage a condition.

 

Physicians are beginning to place a larger emphasis on care in between visits. This empowers patients to become active participants in their own health and extend their care beyond the four walls of the hospital. Additionally, there are many digital health apps that already aim to provide consumers with the ability to collect and analyze their critical health data, ushering in a new generation of informed patients.

 

With the rise of telehealth platforms and advanced remote monitoring technologies, data collected at home is as accurate as data collected at the doctor’s office. However this concept is not yet widely accepted across the healthcare sector. This gap calls for a connected healthcare model where all of the different stakeholders can share data seamlessly across systems.

 

Cybersecurity Concerns

Not surprisingly, with all this data comes the added concern of how to keep it safe. In a presentation about making the right investment in security, Mac McMillan, co-founder and CEO of health data security and privacy company CynergisTek, discussed the overwhelming need for cybersecurity adoption in healthcare. The industry suffered a record 92 privacy breaches attributed to hacking in the first 11 months of 2016, which was a 64 percent increase from 2015.

 

This trend will continue as hackers become more savvy at breaching health system data centers. Healthcare organizations are on alert and spending accordingly. 90 percent of U.S. healthcare respondents feel vulnerable to data threats, which may explain why 81 percent of U.S. healthcare organizations and 76 percent of global healthcare organizations will increase information security spending in 2017, according to a study released at the conference by 451 Research and cybersecurity technology and services vendor Thales.

 

The healthcare industry is at a crossroads. While it faces the unique challenge of encouraging an open flow of health data between patients, providers and physicians, it also must remain mindful of how to keep that sensitive information out of the wrong hands. Healthcare is certainly a sector to keep your eyes on as it continues to stride toward system interoperability and a secure, seamless data exchange.

Digital Health Q&A with Buzzfeed’s Stephanie Lee

With leaders like Apple continuing to invest heavily in consumer health and wellness technology and a slew of new health-focused upstarts popping up every day, digital health is white-hot. To chat about the trends affecting the industry—and what’s next on the horizon—Highwire sat down with Buzzfeed’s senior technology reporter and resident expert on all things digital health Stephanie Lee for a quick Q&A on what’s coming next.

What do you see as the “next big thing” in digital health?

There are a couple of things on the horizon. I’m really personally interested in genetic testing, genomics and in seeing how it will become more and more a part of mainstream healthcare. The price of testing has dropped a lot and it’s become affordable for normal people. Startups like 23andMe and Ancestry DNA are collecting DNA and sharing results. But there are so many more possibilities for what people can learn and what traditional healthcare providers can do—this is only the beginning. It would be really interesting to see genomics incorporated more into a normal doctor’s visit, like seeing what a doctor can do based on patient DNA. That’s sort of begun but there’s more room for mainstream adoption.

What excites you most about digital health? What drives your interest?

I think it’s always just so interesting to see technologies that have been adopted in other industries—banking, communication with friends, transportation—making their way into health. I’m always interested in seeing how these technologies can transform people’s lives for the better and give people all kinds of data about their own bodies that people didn’t have access to a decade ago.

Today, you can track anything and everything about yourself, and access it on the go. That didn’t exist a decade ago. I’m always looking to see proof that things are working, as opposed to just the hype. Seeing that people are able to interpret the data and put it to good use versus just being overwhelmed. I’m also watching what huge, powerful tech companies like Apple and Google do in health and biotech—whether they’re inventing new medical devices or allowing researchers to do studies through phones—and if those projects are actually working.

What are the trends you’re sick of hearing about?

I wouldn’t say “sick of,” but the wearables world has changed a lot. When I started covering it, it was thought that consumer fitness wearables would be the end-all be-all of digital health. And many of them are useful, but there have been so many acquisitions of the smaller trackers, like Misfit or Runtastic, by larger companies and athletic companies. There aren’t going to be as many trackers on the market as people thought there were. It seems like it has peaked; everyone who’s wanted to try one has tried one. There will be more medical usage, though. More medical applications and trackers regulated by the FDA are coming down the pipeline.

What’s the biggest challenge for digital health innovators?

Proving that something works. The big challenge in “normal” consumer technology is that you put out a product, you test it, you figure out what works and doesn’t work. You can make changes and iterate without consequences. Health has a backward timeline. If you’re putting something out that goes beyond a wellness use, something people rely on for medical use or healthcare, you need to prove out of the gate that there’s evidence behind it. Otherwise, the stakes are too high.

You see that tension a lot—tech entrepreneurs who come over to healthcare are surprised by how long it takes to prove something, how long it takes to turn a paper into an actually workable business model. They want to get right to market but it’s not always doable. It’s hard to match health outcomes with revenue streams. Just because something makes money doesn’t mean it works. Companies are trying to reconcile those two.

Do you see any rising hotspots for digital health innovation in the U.S. or globally?

Definitely, Boston and to an extent New York. There’s also San Diego or LA.

Do you think it’s easier or harder to start a digital health company in San Francisco/Silicon Valley than some of those other locations?

Obviously, there’s so much brainpower here—established research universities, an established biotech/pharma hub, and, on the tech side, everything from VCs to software engineers. Resource-wise, it’s an ideal place to be. Getting off the ground, you face the same challenges as any other tech company—it’s expensive, it’s hard to find office space, there’s competition for talent. The challenges here are the same for any tech startup but the resources are plentiful. And there are lots of incubators and accelerators geared toward that. If you’re going to start a startup in the space, you should be here or expect to travel here a lot.

Want to learn more about the digital health landscape? Check out TechCrunch’s Sarah Buhr’s take on the Highwire blog here.

Gearing up for Rock Health Summit: Digital Health Q&A with TechCrunch’s Sarah Buhr

Next week leaders in technology, medicine and policy will come together at Rock Health Summit’s digital health conference to discuss healthcare’s most challenging problems. In anticipation of the event, Highwire sat down with TechCrunch’s Sarah Buhr, whose inbox is flooded daily with digital health pitches from PR pros. Sarah is moderating the panel “Virtual Reality: Just What The Doctor Ordered?” and we asked her what she’s excited about leading into the show and what’s hot and what’s not in digital health.

What are you most looking forward to seeing at Rock Health Summit this year?

One of my passions is biotech. I’m looking forward to hearing about thSarah Burhoughts on genomics and how microorganisms are being used to grow different things. I also want to hear how creative people can get with pharmaceutical drugs and materials. I think another interesting topic is telemedicine, or how we can move medical care inside the home. Right now there are so many solutions where you can speak to your doctor and not go into the hospital, and I want to see how those solutions can evolve.

Are there any digital health industry trends that you expect to be big in five years?

Like I mentioned, biotech is exploding – specifically in the areas of genetic manipulation and gathering data. In the future I think we’ll be able to pull insights out to identify the things that contribute to cancer and testing for diabetes in your genetic makeup. Right now nothing really does that and there are so many problems and cures to find.

What trends are you tired of hearing about?

I’m not interested in B2B enterprise SaaS solutions or HIPPA compliance. Right now everyone is trying to create their own platform rather than fix the bigger problem.

What’s the biggest challenge in digital health?

One of the biggest problems is that people don’t have enough information on medical costs or medicines that might be better for them. Basically there isn’t enough information shared with patients from doctors.

Do you see any rising hotspots for digital health innovation in the U.S?

There is no other place like Silicon Valley. Think about it, there are scientists, programmers, inventors, investors etc., all at “ground zero” for innovation. However outside of Silicon Valley other hotspots that are on the rise include San Diego and Boston which both have a booming biotech scene.

If you’re attending Rock Health Summit make sure to say hello to our Highwire folks on the ground and let us know in the comments what you’re excited to see at this year’s conference.

Written by Morgan Mathis, an account director in Los Angeles and Lauren Kido, a senior account associate in San Francisco