HIMSS18 attendees have their sights set on meaningful innovation and consumerism

Patient wearable doc tablet
HIMSS attendees say consumerism runs deep at this year's conference in Las Vegas. (Getty/powerofforever)

Both seasoned veterans and first-timers attending this year’s HIMSS conference in Las Vegas are focused on a common theme: finding ways to mix technology with patient engagement. 

Whether it’s using new digital tools, mobile apps, telemedicine or artificial intelligence, HIMSS18 has a distinct emphasis on patients. This year, for the first time, HIMSS is accepting applications to cover the cost of admission for patients and caregivers. Several organizations, including the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, have agreed to sponsor patient and caregiver travel costs.

“I believe 2018 will be the year where we will see significant strides being made in positioning patients as consumers,” Rasu Shrestha, M.D., chief innovation officer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told FierceHealthcare. Shrestha is leading a session on March 7 about patients as consumers and the way providers are using digital consultations.

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But technology alone won’t necessarily move the needle.

“The consumerization of healthcare is more than just about apps and portals: It’s about positively influencing behavior and driving higher quality and better outcomes,” he added.

RELATED: How fine-tuning technology and redesigning care delivery can improve patient engagement

First-time conference attendee Nate Lacktman, a partner at Foley & Lardner LLP who chairs the firm’s telemedicine team, said he is primarily focused on the use of asynchronous telemedicine, which he believes will “take off” in the next couple of years. In addition to the potential financial savings and workflow efficiencies associated with asynchronous solutions, he’s curious to see how companies are using mobile devices to support more convenient services for patients.

“There are amazing ways that technology companies can triage or prescreen healthcare issues with a device that patients already carry with them,” he said.

Several people highlighted Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt’s March 5 keynote speech, which will focus on machine learning and its untapped potential in healthcare, as a “must see” session. However, Shrestha added that he wants to see how AI is “moving beyond the hype to substance.”

“While every vendor large or small will be talking about some facet of AI, I believe we should be looking for tangible examples of advancements that have or will move the needle forward in significant ways,” he said. “AI will eventually be ‘augmented intelligence,’ and the innovators that get this right will win.”

RELATED: More than half of executives plan to grow their telehealth program, creating an ‘Amazon effect’ in healthcare

Most attendees are looking for something tangible they can use in their own facility, whether it involves disruptive technology, cybersecurity or interoperability. Parsing through the massive number of vendors on the exhibit floor is no easy task. The challenge for healthcare executives is to find solutions that can actually move the needle in terms of improving patient care.

“I’m looking forward to bringing back home some new ideas, approaches and technologies to continually transform and/or enhance the healthcare services offered throughout UPMC,” said Chris Carmody, senior vice president of enterprise technology and services at UPMC.

For Kevin Lynch, who took over as CIO at NYC Health + Hospitals in January, it’s an opportunity to take stock of cutting-edge technology that’s on the market, connect with other CIOs and pinpoint new ways to make clinician jobs easier.

“In the public health system, we seldom get the leading-edge technology, but I like to see what’s on the horizon,” he said.

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