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Bridging Gaps in Healthcare: Insights from HIMSS18

Holding a patient's hands

I have attended many HIMSS conferences during the last 16 years in health IT. I can say with certainty that I left the HIMSS18 Global Conference & Exhibition filled with more hope for the future than any other time. My topic was #Engage4Health, and I followed this discourse throughout the conference.

Patient Perspective

HIMSS immediately raised the bar with the inclusion of the patient voice at the conference. The pressure to be “politically correct” vanishes with the inclusion of the patient voice. Honest discussion ensues regarding obstacles and barriers, case studies and expert (patient) insights. Healthcare organizations and vendors alike receive honest feedback, redirecting or stimulating patient centered discussion. This is value. The effect of this endeavor, patients included, was palpable throughout my time at the conference.

“What Gap Will This Close in Healthcare?”

This is a question I asked a variety of health IT professionals at HIMSS18 – here’s some of the many people I met with at HIMSS18, and what they had to say.

Removing Barriers to Care in Rural America

Brent Wright, MD, is the associate dean for rural health innovation at The University of Louisville and serves on the Clinical Advisory Committee for KHIE (Kentucky Health Information Exchange [HIE]).

“Residents of rural areas face barriers to accessing health care services,” Dr. Wright said.

About 46 million Americans live in rural areas, and they are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, chronic lower-respiratory disease and stroke than Americans living in urban areas, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Dr. Wright is investigating the benefit of an HIE for rural health, improving care coordination and value-based care initiatives. Having worked to connect three critical access hospitals with HIEs in the state of Kentucky, I am excited to follow the improvements of value-based care in rural health.

I asked Dr. Wright, “What gap will this close in healthcare?” He responded, “The gap that this will close is the information gap that exists at the point of care when medical records are not immediately available. Expertise needs current, up-to-date and relevant information when treating the patient. HIEs, if designed appropriately, can have a major impact on care efficiency and patient satisfaction.”

Adding Patient/Family Leaders to the Conversation

Kym Martin, president of 360 Degree Insights LLC, and Ross Martin, MD, MHA, vice president of 360 Degree Insights LLC, are a “dynamic duo” of healthcare. Kym is a four-time cancer survivor and an industry consult, and Ross is a former OB/GYN, medical informatician. Together, this couple brings a broad set of experience and expertise to each conversation, strengthening and transforming healthcare alliances, usability and system design. I asked them, “What is the gap you want to close in healthcare?”

Kym responded with, “There is a chasm of understanding among healthcare and technology leaders about the strategic consulting role patient and family caregiver leaders can play when building or refining solutions for the healthcare marketplace. Patient/family leaders are intimately familiar with the challenges, trends and opportunities relevant to their health condition. As a result, healthcare and technology leaders often deliver solutions that miss the mark because patient/family leaders are not utilized as key consultants in the design, development or implementation of solutions.”

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity was a leading topic this year at HIMSS18. As noted in the HIMSS 2018 Cybersecurity Survey, there is room for improvement at most organizations.

I followed this theme by moderating a Tweetup with three healthcare attorneys - Matt Fisher, David Harlow and Bill Esslinger, joined by Protenus Co-Founder and President Robert K. Lord. We discussed trust and confidence in the cloud, #HITSecurity, storage, HIPAA and secure interoperability. As data and applications move to the cloud, unique security challenges arise. Strengthening employee training, security and privacy practices, and providing ongoing education regarding best practice guidelines are a few ways chief information officers and healthcare organizations can prepare themselves.

Bridging the Gaps

In summary, the people I spoke with about closing gaps in healthcare all voiced similar concerns, despite their differing areas of focus:

  1. Remove health IT silos
  2. Improve actionable information at the point-of-care
  3. Maximize resources while reducing risk
  4. Decrease burnout and fatigue

The air at HIMSS18 was filled with passion and purpose. 2018 may be the first year we shift the health IT paradigm from reactive to proactive. Based on these conversations, we’re off to a great start.

That’s a wrap! See you next year in Orlando.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.