As 2019 comes to a close, we asked our subject matter experts for a year in review look at health information and technology. Here are their insights into how the global health ecosystem has transformed over the past year.
Jeff Coughlin, Senior Director, Federal and State Affairs, HIMSS
In 2019, work in government relations led to some monumental successes that drove our policy agenda forward and maximized impact. On the Congressional side, the development of Data: Elemental to Health—in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—focuses on driving federal investment in a 21st century public health information superhighway to transform today’s public health data systems into a state-of-the-art, secure and fully interoperable system. HIMSS also collaborated with the Personal Connected Health Alliance to endorse the updated Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies for Health Act of 2019, which makes critical and thoughtful reforms to the Medicare program by expanding access to evidence-based telehealth services.
Our work with federal agencies focused on interpreting the new draft interoperability regulations from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which led to HIMSS and the Personal Connected Health Alliance developing public comments and communicating our viewpoints to membership as well as the broader stakeholder community.
Moreover, we delved into state policy issues and continued to champion the creation of state health information and technology roadmaps or strategic plans to act as guideposts for the health information and technology tools needed to promote a state’s healthcare transformation. Through sustained work with our chapters, HIMSS continues to advocate for critical health information and technology policy issues at the state level and build on our work with the federal government.
Jonathan French, CPHIMS, SHIMSS, Senior Director, Quality and Patient Safety, HIMSS
Over the last year, governments and payers around the globe have explored how to change the way quality is measured to drive value-based care. Identifying core measure sets—to track measureable outcomes— help eliminate disparities, safeguard public health, improve access to care and drive cost savings.
Quality measures alignment continues to be a huge challenge across the globe. In every country, hospitals and clinicians are required to capture and report clinical quality data in a multitude of ways to meet the requirements of value-based care models for government and private payers, along with accreditation requirements. We’ll continue to lead the conversation around quality measures alignment and the impact on improving care while reducing administrative burden.
Mari Greenberger, MPPA, Senior Director, Informatics, HIMSS
As 2019 comes to an end and we set our sights on 2020, several of the key areas of focus for informatics remain consistent—addressing interoperability challenges and embracing emerging stakeholders and technology, data and information exchange and sharing via application programming interfaces, promotion and adoption of healthcare standards, as well as empowering the individual and alleviating clinician burden. With an evolving policy and legal landscape, both in the U.S. as well as abroad, these areas of focus remain constant across the globe. Whether it’s cross-border exchange or crossing state lines, relevant health information needs to be accessible to the individual and the appropriate care providers where and when it’s needed.
Within informatics, we have an acute focus on accelerating the awareness and adoption of HL7 FHIR®, particularly through the ONC/IHE USA Cooperative Agreement focused on profiling FHIR and its corresponding accelerator initiatives. Additionally, it is well known that the social determinants of health (SDOH) topic has begun to dominate conversation amongst major healthcare stakeholders around the world—integrating health and social components into the clinical conversation is essential to ensure more meaningful health outcomes and ultimately caring for the whole-person; informatics has put a sharp focus on this topic area for 2020. Through our educational and networking opportunities at the HIMSS Global Health Conference and the initiation of a SDOH Task Force this spring, we intend to amplify its importance and begin to have dialogue around how to most appropriately include relevant information into the broader healthcare workflow.
Ian Hoffberg, Applied Innovation Manager, HIMSS
This year has been a landmark year for innovation. From the use of 3-D printed models to assist brain surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital, to voice assistance that tackle healthcare solutions such as connecting patients with pharmacies, emergency department scheduling, post-surgery care and chronic care personalization. This year has demonstrated how technology and innovation can connect patients, lower cost and provide better care.
The biggest transition this year is more of how people talk about innovation. It is no longer a question of should we innovate, but rather how do I implement new technologies and solutions. The industry has realized that innovation is happening and is moving forward with exciting new technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain. If you are not innovating then you are being stagnate and falling behind. There is a sprit within healthcare to move beyond the why and a focus on the how and what.
Lee Kim, Director, Privacy and Security, HIMSS
It’s been a year of increasingly sophisticated and stealthy attacks. Cryptojacking—the unauthorized use of a computer to mine cryptocurrency—and ransomware have taken center stage. Cyberattacks are now much more sophisticated and targeted. Business email compromise is on the rise as well. Attackers are frequently gaining entry by either vishing, phishing, or a combination of the two. Humans are and always will be the weakest link.
Yet, the healthcare sector has had more time to mature its security practices. While there have been growing pains amidst limited budgets and cultural resistance to making cybersecurity a priority, more proactive initiatives have occurred. One such example is the Health Industry Cybersecurity Practices (HICP): Managing Threats and Protecting Patients.
Neil Patel, Executive Vice President, HIMSS and President, Healthbox, a HIMSS Innovation Company
Over the past few years, innovation has become an overused word that has started to give it a negative connotation toward innovation theater. However, a fair amount of real innovation did happen in 2019, from industry altering changes to small, impactful changes.
Investments in digital health are still strong, with behavioral health and women's health funding on the rise. And five digital health companies have gone public so far. Big players new to healthcare continue to shake up the marketplace by advancing care delivery for primary and dentistry care, and virtual clinics with at-home primary care. Smaller but impactful entrants are expanding and offering alternatives to expensive care delivery. These companies are now more visibly competing with many incumbents and partnering with others.
Incumbents who are innovating their business models and their workforces to meet the market’s competition and demands of the consumer will survive. Many incumbents fall prey to innovation theater, while others are just doing it and going all in with protected innovation time, focus on deploying solutions they invest in and even looking internationally for inspiration. Some of the focus areas this year for health systems have been commercialization of internal ideas (and data!), simplifying high-volume, non-complex tasks and exploring opportunities to partner with existing tech companies.
John Sharp, Director, Thought Advisory, Personal Connected Health Alliance, a HIMSS Innovation Company
In the past year, connected health has seen new innovations begin to scale. One reason for this beyond investment dollars is that smart digital health companies produce more evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of health apps and devices. Studies have moved beyond pilots to full-scale trials collecting digital data and measuring real-world outcomes. One example of this success is the use of virtual coaching apps, which originally focused on diabetes prevention and have expanded to chronic condition management. Also, big tech has moved into the connected health space, not only offering cloud solutions but also developing wearables, voice technology and other innovations and acquisitions.
New reimbursement codes for remote monitoring enable these tools—including wireless blood pressure monitors, scales, respiratory devices and heart monitors—to be considered for population health programs. On the regulatory side, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has clarified its definition of Software as a Medical Device. Telemedicine has moved toward a mainstream offering, not just via private pay but also with veterans and some insurance providers and Medicare Advantage programs. Finally, there is increased involvement of patients in development of apps including a co-design process.
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Updated December 18, 2019