HIMSS21 Roundup—Cyberattacks hit mid-size hospitals hardest; CIOs share tips on digital transformation

Report: Cyberattacks are hitting mid-size hospitals hardest

About 48% of hospital executives say their organization had a forced or proactive shutdown during the last six months due to outside attacks or queries, according to a new industry survey from cybersecurity firm CyberMDX and Philips.

The report, highlighted in a HIMSS21 presentation and now available online, suggested that midsized hospitals are being hit harder than their larger counterparts.

Specifically, those from hospitals with 1,000 or more beds reported an average device shutdown time of 6.2 hours at a cost of $21,500 per hour. For midsize hospitals (less than 1,000 beds), those numbers ballooned to an average 9.8 hours and a shutdown cost of $45,700 per hour.

Relatively few of the respondents, about one in 10, said that cybersecurity was a high-priority spend for their hospital IT team. A little under half said their organizations could use more staff focused on medical device and IoT security.

Notably, the respondents frequently said that their hospitals had not yet closed the gaps for well-known vulnerabilities including BlueKeep (52%), WannaCry (64%) and NotPetya (75%).

“No matter the size, hospitals need to know about their security vulnerabilities," said Maarten Bodlaender, head of cyber security services at Philips, said in a statement. "Proper cybersecurity begins with a clear understanding of the evolving landscape, and this survey is part of our ongoing efforts to provide insight into cybersecurity needs across healthcare organizations."

The companies’ online poll was conducted by Ipsos and included 100 IT and information security respondents plus another 30 biomed technicians and engineers. Nearly all of the respondents indicated that they were a decision maker or primary decision maker for security, compliance or overall IT purchasing.

Health system CIOs on making digital transformation stick

Health system executives had clear advice for providers looking to make digital transformation stick: make sure it will play a role in the system’s bottom line and doesn’t deviate from the organization-wide strategy.

During a panel discussion, Aaron Martin, executive vice president and chief digital and innovation officer for Providence, said that one of the benefits of pandemic-fueled disruption was that health systems no longer had the time or capacity to “checkbox” new digital offerings.

For example, rather than launching a patient-facing telehealth service just for the sake of having it, providers are prioritizing digital efforts that are servicing a core, measurable goal—a mindset that he said was more reminiscent of his former big tech employer.

“About four years ago we [Providence] started really integrating digital into the business strategy. It’s part of how we go to market, which feels a lot more like what I saw at Amazon,” he said during the panel. “It’s [not] this separate thing you’re doing off to the side and you get patted on the head and told ‘Good job.’ With that comes a lot more responsibility and the viability of the enterprise.”

That type of alignment with the organization’s needs goes a long way toward ensuring that a given digital transformation effort will stick around, Martin and Jeff Sturman, senior vice president and chief information officer of Memorial Healthcare System, said.

But while Martin’s advice directly spoke to a health system’s financials, Sturman noted that purposeful digital transformation can apply to specific subsets of the organization’s strategy, such as consumerism, patient intake or accessibility. The main key, he said, is to strive for alignment and take a pass on self-serving novelty.

“You’ve got to know what you’re trying to solve and at the end of the day all we’re doing is trying to support your overall healthcare system’s strategy,” he said during the panel. “That’s the biggest advice I can give anyone going down this journey: if you’re going down this journey and you’re looking at digital for the sake of the technology, you’re going down a rabbit hole that doesn’t make any sense. There’s lots of things we can get enamored with from an innovation standpoint that sound really great to do, but if it’s not on your roadmap as a mission for your healthcare system, put it off.”

Doctors say pandemic accelerated tech adoption

The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally reshaped how physicians use technology with 90% of doctors now using telehealth compared to 32% pre-pandemic, according to Google Cloud research.

A majority of doctors (62%) say the pandemic forced their organizations to make tech upgrades that normally would have taken years, according to a poll of 300 physicians conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Google Cloud.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, about half of physicians (53%) say their healthcare organization’s approach to the adoption of technology would best be described as “neutral” (i.e., willing to try new technologies only if they have been in the market for awhile or others have tried and recommended them). 

Google commissioned The Harris Poll to survey physicians in the U.S. about their biggest pain points just before the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020. They followed up with those same doctors in June 2021.

The survey results unveil how much COVID-19 reshaped technology’s role in the healthcare field and how it’s changing day-to-day operations for physicians, according to Joe Miles Google Cloud's managing director of healthcare and life sciences,

"Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been a rapid acceleration of digital transformation across the entire healthcare industry. Telehealth has become a more mainstream and safe way for patients and caregivers to connect. Machine learning modeling has helped speed up innovation and drug discovery. And new levels of integration and data portability have helped enable greater vaccine availability and equitable access to those who need it," he wrote in a blog post.

Forty-five percent of physicians say the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the pace of their organization’s adoption of technology, according to the survey.

The majority of physicians say increased data interoperability will cut the time to diagnosis for patients significantly (86%) and will ultimately help improve patient outcomes (95%.) In addition to better patient experiences and outcomes, more than half of physicians (54%) believe increased access to data via technology has had a positive impact on their healthcare organization overall. 

Most physicians say they have at least heard of the new federal rules, aunched in 2019, to improve the interoperability of electronic health information. This is a clear rise from 2020 (64%), but deeper knowledge is fairly low. Only 30% of physicians say they are somewhat or very familiar with the new rules.

Among those who have heard of the new rules, nearly half are in favor (48%) but a similar proportion remain unsure (46%). And like in 2020, by far the top potential benefit of the rules is thought to be forcing EHRs to be more interoperable with other systems (70%).

Despite the technological leaps this year, most physicians still believe the industry lags behind in technology adoption but recognize the opportunity for technological support and advancement, the survey found.

More than half of physicians describe the healthcare industry as lagging behind the gaming (64%), telecommunications (56%), and financial services industries (53%). 

Epic launches learn-and-share platform for health IT leaders

Health IT giant Epic launched a new customer story-sharing website that lets Epic users share insights, tips and creative ideas around using health IT to improve their organizations and patient care.

The site, EpicShare.org, combines insights from industry leaders, quick tips on improving outcomes and performance, in-depth case studies as well as a "Hey Judy" column from Epic founder and CEO Judy Faulkner.

"Every day we hear about the impressive ways healthcare organizations use technology to improve health outcomes for patients, strengthen their communities and reduce the cost of care," said Eric Helsher, vice president of customer success at Epic in a statement. "EpicShare brings the best of these strategies and insights together every week so that healthcare leaders can learn from each other and replicate successful approaches."

Through the site, health IT leaders can post articles that describe how organizations improve care and reduce costs with healthcare IT, so others can learn from their experiences and replicate their outcomes. Users also can provide insights on using health IT to address common challenges.

An Epic spokeswoman told Fierce Healthcare that the site has been "a long time coming," as it was conceived a year ago and the company focused on developing the site this spring.

"EpicShare comes from a place where we wanted to provide an opportunity for our customers, executive leadership, to learn from each other, share their tips and some of their learnings along the way," she said.

The typically social media-shy company also recently debuted on Twitter, sort of. The company now has a @EpicShares account.

Also during HIMSS, the health IT company highlighted its Epic Health Research Network, which publishes insights from its HIPAA-limited Cosmos data set from more than 115 million patients. 

The Cosmos technology mines data from millions of patient medical records at numerous health systems to research how well treatments work and provides evidence-based guidance at the point of care.

Epic launched the Epic Health Research Network last year to speed COVID-19-related research drawn from real-world evidence in the Epic EHR. Recent studies include research on long COVID and the prevalence of at-risk people who obtain lung cancer screening.

Keynote: Health tech leaders need to foster next generation of innovators

HIMSS21's Wednesday morning keynote speaker was light on years but overflowing with advice for health tech leaders looking to nurture fresh ideas from young innovators.

Fifteen-year-old Gitanjali Rao, Time Magazine's 2020 Kid of the Year, gave the audience a rundown on some of her award-winning health inventions and the experiences that fostered her continued interest in innovation to address needs. 

Her chief recommendation? Destigmatizing failures and engaging the young people who are reaching out for support. 

"Constantly coming up with ideas requires someone who can guide you through the process. If I had to make one request to each of you here it would be to seek a mentee and mentor them in the areas that their passionate about because that will make a global difference in this world as well," she said during the keynote. 

"My biggest challenge to all of you here is to say yes. If a student comes knocking on your door, say yes. If a student has a question for you, say yes, because … your impact makes a difference in every single student’s life." 

Rao's recommendations for the older generation also touched on design thinking and the role of social media.

For the former, she said that innovation focuses too often focuses on the technology rather than the problem. Rather than starting with a tool, expanding it and finding a use case, the industry's innovators would be well served by starting with the problem and leveraging existing technologies. 

As for social media, she said that leading platforms have wide userbases and much to offer for health and wellness education. Rao pointed to the healthcare professionals and organizations who are on TikTok and other platforms providing information as a great source of motivation for users.  

"As someone who basically had to teach myself not to measure myself based on likes because of the society we grow up in, it’s hard for me to kind of want to get back on the platform and post something," she said. "But the reason for [doing] that is because I know it’s educating the new generation. So, when it comes to social media tools like that, we need to view them as just another source of information. While they can be a source of distraction in some cases, they’re also a great motivation tool [and] learning experience for every individual."

Automation startup Olive picks up Healthcare IP

Olive is getting into the clearinghouse business with the acquisition of Healthcare IP.

Through this acquisition, Olive will deliver clearinghouse and claims management automation through its value-focused model, eliminating the usual transaction fees that are standard in the industry to provide the most competitive offering in the market today, the company said.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Olive announced the news during HIMSS21 but was one of a handful of companies that pulled out of the in-person conference.

Healthcare IP is a clearinghouse that has been streamlining payment management since 2013. The company has partnered with the top hospitals and health systems across the United States to help manage their insurance processing.

Clearinghouses have traditionally served a role in the proper exchange of insurance claims and vital health and benefits information between providers and payers. However, existing claims processes can place a high burden on health systems, with an estimated one in seven insurance claims rejected in the U.S., forcing rework and delays in reimbursement.

Clearinghouses have not innovated to keep pace with the volume, velocity and variety of transactions demanded by providers today, especially as the amount of healthcare data skyrockets, with 463 exabytes of data expected to be created each day by 2025, Olive executives said.

"We see this acquisition as a critical next step toward delivering the transformation healthcare desperately needs. Clearinghouses are foundational to the proper networking of the entire industry, but they haven't been innovated in years," said Sean Lane, CEO of Olive in a statement. "We want to change how clearinghouses work with provider organizations, so we developed a new model. We won't get paid unless the providers get paid. This puts customers first. Providers deserve low-cost, high-value claims functionality and we're excited for Olive to be that partner."

Lane and his team first deployed Olive in 2017 with the idea to tackle the high-volume, repetitive and manual tasks healthcare workers do every day but faster and more accurately. The company has been tackling issues like prior authorization through the acquisition of AI software provider Verata Health.

It also recently entered the operating room with the acquisition of Empiric Health.

The company has raised $902 million from investors at a valuation of $4 billion.

Cox Communications unveils real-time location tech for hospitals

Cox Communications rolled out its Internet of Things (IoT) platform for hospitals.

By automating tasks like equipment tracking, environmental monitoring and on-site navigation, Cox's technology aims to increase operational efficiency, improve staff safety and workflows and enhance the patient experience, the company said in a press release.

Hospitals around the country face many of the same issues every day – time lost locating assets, difficulty in manually monitoring environmental factors and patients and visitors struggling to navigate facilities. Cox developed its all-in-one Cox Prosight solution to make day-to-day operations easier and more efficient, executives said.

“For decades, we’ve connected millions of patients and providers with our network and now we are using technology to connect people and things in new ways that improve the efficiency of healthcare operations, staff safety, and the patient experience,” said Sujata Gosalia, executive vice president and chief strategy officer in a statement.

“Cox Prosight will create detailed insights that support patient care and hospital optimization," she said.

The commercial division of Cox Communications, Cox Business provides voice, data and video services for more than 355,000 small and regional businesses nationwide, including health care providers, educational organizations, financial institutions and federal, state and local government organizations. 

Cox's IoT platform includes software, hardware and services with integrated features that give hospital administrators and staff access to asset management capabilities that track equipment in real-time, provide visibility into utilization and inventory levels and notify staff about maintenance and cleaning needs –from any desktop or mobile device.

The technology also automates environmental monitoring to check temperatures hospital-wide for sensitive items and spaces – such as pharmaceuticals, freezers, or operating rooms – and delivers notifications of temperature changes and streamlines compliance processes.

Cox Prosight is piloting the platform with Ochsner Lafayette General located in Lafayette, Louisiana. The hospital is currently tracking 2,700 pieces of equipment, 2,700 staff and 200 environmental sensors to ensure efficient operations.

Innovaccer kicks off innovation accelerator with 14 digital health firms

Capitalizing on the focus on innovation at HIMSS21, health technology company Innovaccer launched a new innovation accelerator program at the conference.

Fourteen digital health startups have already signed on to join the program.

The Innovation Accelerator program was designed as a partner and marketplace ecosystem aimed at helping digital health innovators rapidly create breakthrough clinical, financial and operational solutions by leveraging Innovaccer's health cloud technology, according to the company.

The company's cloud platform connects data from more than 100 electronic health record companies, health information exchanges, payers, pharmacies, labs, and partners.

“Our data model is unique because it’s fundamentally organized around the whole patient,” said Abhinav Shashank, CEO at Innovaccer in a statement. “The unified patient record—a single source of clinical and financial truth—is at the center of the Innovaccer Health Cloud’s ecosystem. And that’s what makes this program distinctive. We’re bringing the industry together around a common vision and mission to help healthcare care as one.” 

Program partners gain access to the Innovaccer Health Cloud’s managed infrastructure; developer-ready platform compliant with the latest FHIR standard; more than 150 plug-and-play integrations and 800 analytical models; reusable analytical, clinical, and business workflows; 200 turnkey connectors; 30 FHIR APIs; 3,000 healthcare data points; and 400 search parameters. Partners will also benefit from the Innovaccer Health Cloud’s enterprise-grade security, including HITRUST certification; SOC 2 Type 2 certification, ENAC P&S accreditation, NIST CSF and HIPAA compliance; and PHI/PII security, including ACL and security-specific attribution for access control.

The partner companies' solutions will be promoted and available to Innovaccer’s customer base of more than 37,000 health systems. P

The aim is to enable partner companies to quickly build or evolve new solutions that give payers, providers and life sciences organizations a “single source of truth” that promotes whole-person care, Shashank said. 

Companies signed on to the program include PatientPing, Care Signal, Perception Health, b.Well Connected Health, Jvion, Suki and RubiconMD. 

New tools let patients check-in for appointmetns from their phones

Health IT company Vecna Technologies pushed out a new mobile app that enables patients to pre-register and check-in for medical appointments from any device.

The Health Pass app reduces administrative interaction by leveraging the patient's existing phone feature, including biometric facial recognition, location services to enable geofencing for automatic check-in and text alerts for appointment reminders and billing alerts.

"HealthPass is an extension of our digital patient intake portfolio which is deployed in over 2,000 health systems. The app empowers patients with a convenient, contactless experience to safely pre-register and check-in for appointments. The intake process is streamlined for staff and revenue cycle management is enhanced with mobile bill pay," Vecna Technologies CEO Deborah Theobald said in a statement.

Vecna's patient intake platform enables patients to pre-register and check-in for appointments from any device, complete digital forms and questionnaires including COVID-19 screening and offers options for financial self-service for payments, cost estimates and payment plans.

A staff dashboard also provides patient flow management and analytics.

RevSpring, a company that provides healthcare engagement and payment solutions, expanded its Arrived check-in solutions to automate patient intake and enable patients to use the device in their hand to complete the intake process from anywhere.

With the expansion to include Patient Intake, RevSpring's solution now spans the full range of a patient’s pre-service healthcare experience, from appointment reminders to billing communications and everything in between, such as online check-in, co-payments, estimates, and pre-service payments, according to the company.

Company executive say the update offers modern, one-stop-shop interface that provides consistency for patients across all touchpoints through automation and standardization of patient intake steps, including clinical intake forms, registration data, co-pay collections and insurance card capture.

Artificial intelligence for revenue cycle management

BUDDI AI expanded its revenue cycle management automation applications with a new comprehensive end-to-end solution called Practice.AI. 

The company says the solution is powered by a healthcare contextual lake and goes beyond robotic process automation with artificial intelligence that understands context and the complexities of healthcare data to optimize RCM workflows.

Leveragign AI, the applications help to take the administrative burden of registration, coding, documentation and billing off healthcare workers so they can focus on value based care, company executive said in a press release.

"Until now, the healthcare RCM industry has been largely stuck in a cycle of management—managing claims, denials and appeals as well as patients, providers and payers. With Practice.AI, we're disrupting that pattern and giving healthcare workers an improved, automated and truly intelligent RCM experience to go beyond management to actively predicting, preventing and solving your most pressing healthcare challenges," said Ram Swaminathan, co-founder and CEO of BUDDI AI in a statement. 

Zoom launches new telehealth feature to improve accessibility

Video conferencing company Zoom unveiled the beta version of a new mobile browser feature that frees patients using the platform for a telehealth visit from needing to download a dedicated app.

Initially available on iOS, the client allows patients to click on a Zoom meeting link from their provider and join a virtual appointment directly from a mobile browser. The call itself will also have a simplified version of the Zoom user interface that’s easier for use on a mobile device, the company said in a blog post.

Providers on the other end of the call retain the privileges and features of hosting a Zoom telehealth session as usual, such as virtual backgrounds and administrator-scheduled appointments.

By offering a simplified mobile experience, however, providers and their IT teams won’t have to dedicate as much time to walking patients through the platform, the company said.

Similar rollouts for other operating systems are planned for later release, Zoom said. It also teased future features such as virtual waiting rooms and the ability to send an invite without displaying the address of the web scheduler.

Philips rolls out new cloud-based solutions to integrate informatics

Royal Philips highlighted two new additions to its HealthSuite line of cloud-based healthcare informatics offerings: Philips Acute Care Telehealth and Philips Patient Flow Capacity Suite.

The former is a configurable virtual care platform for systems that builds on the Philips’ tele-ICU offerings. Hospitals can scale Acute Care Telehealth across multiple facilities as need and deploy it as either a centralized command center or across units as a decentralized system, the company said. The other new showing provides healthcare customers with a means to visualize the entire patient journey and, with the support of machine learning analytics, make informed decisions regarding patient flow.

The tools can predict changes in demand, make patient transition decisions and identify bottlenecks in patient flow, the company said.

Samsung unveils mobile digital solutions for "smart hospitals"

Technology giant Samsung came to Vegas with three healthcare announcements in tow.

First on the list is a new partnership with Logitech that will focus on telehealth offerings for healthcare organizations. The deal aims to pair complementary technologies from the two companies into singular offerings—monitors and displays from Samsung and conferencing cameras from Logitech.

Samsung also rolled out a new model of its web-enabled televisions specifically designed for use in patient rooms that, among other things, allow patients to control their environment through the remote and screen display.

Finally, the tech company announced a program to help provider organizations more easily access federal and state grants for smart hospital investments. The Samsung Grants Support Program can provide information, consulting and customized funded research to support new or ongoing healthcare tech initiatives.

Chooch AI introduced computer vision models

Chooch AI announced the availability of several new computer vision models built for use in healthcare settings.

According to the announcement, the new models can be deployed to: collect data and trigger alerts in smart operation rooms, monitor for in-hospital patient safety events or worker compliance with safety precautions, quickly characterize microscopy slides and support radiology imaging analysis.

Each offering is scalable, the company said, and designed to offload time-consuming tasks around data collection, bundling deep learning components, labeling and other areas.