#ICYMI: At HIMSS 2017, data stole the show

There were plenty of hot topics at last week’s meeting of the Health Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS) in Orlando, Florida, but many had a common thread: It was all about the data.

Several speakers and health IT leaders we talked to at the show mentioned data transparency—the idea that healthcare organizations should be crystal clear about how their data is gathered, what it consists of and how it’s used to reach decisions. If you want physician buy-in, experts said at the show, data transparency is key.

Data analytics continues to be top of mind, of course. We met with execs from St. Louis-based Mercy to hear how they used big data to not only save millions of dollars but also to convince surgeons and other clinicians to change how they look at block scheduling and preference items. We wonder which of those two tasks was more difficult.

Health information technology executives at the show also talked to FierceHealthIT about politics, policy and the Affordable Care Act under the new Trump administration. And on the last day of the conference, former Ohio Representative John Boehner made headlines with his predictions about an ACA repeal and replacement.

Here’s some of our coverage from the event, including reports on keynotes and sessions as well as exclusive interviews from sources we interviewed in Orlando.

Fierce Exclusive Interview: Mercy health system uses big data to cut millions in surgical costs [Q&A]

A St. Louis, Missouri-based health system that was struggling to control costs in the surgical suite turned to big data to solve the problem. And they didn’t just save money, they reduced or eliminated targeted surgical products, reduced variation in surgical protocols and established best practices across surgical departments—all while ensuring quality postoperative results for patients.

Mercy, one of this year’s HIMSS Enterprise Davies Award recipients, saved $9.42 million last year in perioperative costs alone. And how much did the system cost? “Less than that,” says Mercy’s CMIO, Todd Stewart, M.D.

We sat down with Stewart and Jamie Oswald, the health system's data analytics and engineering pro, to talk through the ins and outs of making these dramatic changes—and their dramatic results. – Gienna Shaw

Session report: Telehealth, remote monitoring and home care help providers meet patients where they are

As providers take on greater financial risk with reimbursement tied to outcomes, clinicians are putting greater emphasis on care in between visits. Perhaps that’s why there’s been a wave of investments in telehealth platforms and other connected and remote healthcare technologies.

“The delivery of care over technology is very much here,” Roy Schoenberg, M.D., CEO of telehealth company American Well, said at a session on retail healthcare and patient engagement during the HX360 event at this year’s HIMSS meeting.

The panel, moderated by FierceHealthcare, also included Jody Holtzman, senior vice president of market innovation at AARP, and Alex Hurd, senior director of product development, growth and payer innovation for the health and wellness division of retail giant Walmart. – Gienna Shaw

Session report: Business opportunities abound outside of traditional care delivery settings

When you hear the oft-cited axioms “put patients first” and “meet patients where they are,” your thoughts might turn to familiar settings like patient-centered medical homes or more convenient ones, such as urgent care centers.

But you should also be thinking outside of the existing care delivery system, where business opportunities abound.

It boils down to basic math, says Walmart's Alex Hurd.

“Because if you have a primary care doctor … then you’re going to see that person once or twice a year, on average. But you’re in the pharmacy once or twice a month. And you’re in your grocery store probably once a week. And so, if you really want to focus on the patient, then why not go to where patients … are already spending time?” – Gienna Shaw

Fierce exclusive: Banner Health telemedicine program uses tools, analytics to target complex chronic disease patients

A telehealth program at one of the largest nonprofit health systems in the country has reduced hospitalizations and overall costs by providing in-home telehealth and analytics tools to a subset of patients with complex chronic conditions.

Building on its prior success in the ICU, Banner Health, the 28-hospital health system headquartered in Phoenix, constructed a unique telehealth offshoot targeting patients diagnosed with five or more chronic diseases. The initiative focuses on the system's most complex population—patients who “live on the edge all the time,” Deb Dahl, vice president of patient care innovation, told FierceHealthcare. – Evan Sweeney

Ginny Rometty IBM
Ginni Rometty

Keynote address: IBM's Ginni Rometty talks trust, values in a cognitive computing era

Artificial intelligence and cognitive computing are “mainstream and here,” but to ensure that clinicians use them effectively to improve care the data must be transparent, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty told the HIMSS audience at the opening keynote.

Healthcare technology is on the cusp of becoming more secure, less wasteful, more personalized, more fair and more just, she said.  

“Every new era [comes] with amazing, inspiring dreams, but they also come with questions,” she said. “We have to take [those questions] seriously. When a new era comes, it’s our responsibility to guide that technology into the world in an ethical and a really enduring way.” – Gienna Shaw

Session report: Roy Smythe on what motivates physicians to adopt new technologies

Roy Smythe, M.D., says healthcare organizations can encourage physicians to embrace new technologies and innovation. But here's the thing: It’s not all about the money. 

Smythe, chief medical officer of healthcare informatics at Netherlands-based tech giant Philips, says innovation requires behavior change. Throwing money (let alone more data) at physicians doesn’t work because people who do cognitive work are motivated by higher order values. – Gienna Shaw

Fierce exclusive: Health IT leaders mixed on potential ACA repeal, replace

Healthcare IT executives voiced a broad range of perspectives regarding potential changes to the Affordable Care Act and any replacement plans that might follow. Some worried that any changes to the law will put additional pressure on already tight budgets, while larger integrated systems insisted they were well-positioned to weather a revamped regulatory framework.

Executives spoke with FierceHealthcare about prospective changes to the healthcare landscape and what an overhaul of the landmark healthcare law could mean for IT budgets and investment opportunities. Several noted that any changes could trickle down to IT budgets, forcing them to reprioritize ongoing or prospective IT initiatives.

Some, like Jacques Orces, D.O., chief medical information officer at Miami Children’s Health System, said an ACA repeal will hurt his system's bottom line following a seven-year period of financial improvement when more children in the Miami area had coverage. “We have razor-narrow margins,” Orces said. – Evan Sweeney

John Boehner, former speaker of the House of Representatives
John Boehner

Keynote session: On the final day of HIMSS 2017, Boehner bets against ACA repeal and replace

Count the former Republican Speaker of the House—who waged his own war against the Affordable Care Act during his time in office—among those who believe the healthcare law won’t be fully repealed.

During a keynote presentation, former Ohio Representative John Boehner said he didn’t believe there would be a full repeal and replacement of the ACA, predicting that Republican lawmakers would make conservative changes to the existing law. In fact, Boehner said he laughed at the idea that Republicans in Congress could come up with a quick replacement plan. – Evan Sweeney

Session report: Geospatial analytics help population health efforts at Loma Linda, Children’s National

Two health systems on opposite sides of the country are incorporating geospatial analytics and environmental factors into existing patient data to create targeted population health initiatives.

Leaders at Children’s National Health System and Loma Linda University Medical Center explained how they use location-based analytics along with social and behavioral data to refine community outreach efforts and boost patient engagement through localized, disease-specific patient resources. – Evan Sweeney

Conference news: HIMSS survey finds providers have their eyes on quality, EHRs amid workforce challenges

Quality care, EHRs and cybersecurity are the top three IT issues facing healthcare providers, according to a new survey, and the majority of hospitals indicate they have positions to fill in their IT department.

The results of the survey conducted by HIMSS were announced at the organization’s annual conference on Monday, which included responses from 210 provider organizations and 158 vendor/consulting organizations. – Evan Sweeney