HIMSS 2017: Health IT leaders look to build on existing technology to improve care

Computer showing analytics
Many health IT leaders are using predictive analytics already, but HIMSS offers a chance to find out what other systems are doing.

There is sure to be an abundance of new technology on display next week in Orlando at the 2017 HIMSS meeting, but health IT executives are not just interested in new gadgets and software platforms; they also want to know how hospitals are using technology in new and transformative ways.

Most healthcare systems have already started integrating new technology in some form. But leaders at those systems also know they are not using that technology to its full potential. The best way to find out how to fill the gaps is to look at what other systems are doing with the same technology, health IT leaders told FierceHealthcare. Predictive analytics, machine learning, blockchain and artificial intelligence are likely to draw the biggest crowds at the Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society event as health IT leaders search for new ways to sift through patient data.

For example, Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, has already begun pushing health data to the cloud and using predictive analytics to send alerts to clinicians, says Richard Stroup, the hospital’s director of informatics. But he’s interested in finding out how other hospitals are using the cloud in conjunction with machine learning.

“We’re already using predictive analytics and sending out reports, but we’re collecting so much information I just know there is so much more we can do,” he said. “That’s why I want to understand what is going on or who is working on new stuff we might be able to utilize.”

Renown CIO Ron Fuschillo (pictured right) echoed similar expectations about the upcoming conference, emphasizing a desire to find out what works in other institutions.

“I hope to come away with even greater aspects of thinking differently so we can continue to drive results within our team, departments, and organizations as a whole,” he said.

Presenters highlight successful tech interventions

Both Fuschillo and Stroup are also presenting at HIMSS this year, and although they will be speaking at different sessions about different topics, both are focusing on how IT systems have made tangible improvements to patient care.

Stroup is one of four presenters in a Monday, February 20, session called, “Can IT really save lives?” He’ll be talking about how Children's Mercy integrated cloud software, tablets, and predictive analytics to eliminate mortality within a very specific patient population: infants with a rare congenital heart defect that requires several major surgeries.

For children with this rare condition, mortality rates peak at around 10% to 20% during a six-week gap between the first and second surgery. Parents must closely track their child’s vital signs during those first six weeks at home. In the past, the hospital provided a checklist and a notebook and had them periodically call in to the hospital to relay information to a nurse who—time permitting—entered the information into an Excel spreadsheet.

For the last three years, Children's Mercy has modernized its approach, issuing parents a Microsoft Surface tablet which automatically uploads information to a cloud-based server where predictive analytics alert the care team if those vital signs are not within certain defined parameters. Mortality rates have dropped to zero ever since.

“It’s absolutely impacting patient lives,” Stroup says of the initiative.

Meanwhile, Fuschillo will be presenting on Tuesday, February 21, in a session that outlines Renown’s multiyear health IT transformation that improved security and emphasized patient-centered care.

“What I hope to impart to everyone attending is a vision for tangible change for their departments and in turn, their organizations, [by] doing away with old thinking … and embracing an environment where we all work together, understand the vision, and believe in the vision,” he says. And "knowing that working together and moving forward with a shared vision is the only way we will succeed.”

Patient engagement, policy changes, and networking

Other health IT executives are focused on exploring how providers are integrating mobile health apps and using that data to fill in some of the unknowns about patients.

“I am looking forward to finding ways of actively improving patient engagement and moving beyond patient portals,” says Geeta Nayyar, M.D., chief healthcare and innovation officer for Femwell Group Health. “Invisible technology that engages people where they are—mostly on their mobile devices—via technology like telemedicine and text and push notifications, will help providers expand the continuum of care and connect the web of caregivers.”

Martin Entwistle, executive director of personal healthcare programs at Sutter Health, will be discussing those very issues in a Tuesday session on patient-generated health data (PGHD). In his presentation, Entwistle will address some of the barriers associated with PGHD and how hospitals can leverage information to involve patients in disease management.

“At the end of the day, PGHD is an increasingly important input to the bigger picture of care management, but can’t be seen as an end in itself,” he says. “Advancing the healthcare system's ability to manage and use PGHD will be increasingly important so that we will be best positioned to leverage new and more complex types of data that are coming on-stream and will impact our ability to deliver precision medicine and truly personalized care.”

As an HIMSS attendee, Entwistle says he is interested in finding out how other organizations are incorporating information systems and how they overcame various barriers to implementation.Picture of Sue Schade

Sue Schade (pictured right), a principal at StarBridge Advisors, who previously served as CIO at University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio, the University of Michigan Hospital, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, says she is particularly interested in any policy changes coming from the new administration, as well as any organizations that have made innovative strides in connected health and patient engagement. Schade, who has written several blog posts on what to expect from HIMSS17, says this year she’ll be more interested in networking with current and prospective clients.

“After all, HIMSS is the place to be, and it’s a chance to meet with a lot of people in a few short days,” she says.