With 43,129 attendees – from physicians to social media managers – all of them passionate about health IT, the energy (in terabytes) was palpable at last week’s annual Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference.
The conference included several notable speakers, including former US President George W. Bush, and required over 1 million square feet of space within Chicago’s McCormick Center. The hashtag #HIMSS15 trended on Twitter every day last week. On Monday alone, #HIMSS15 generated over 104 million impressions.
Three related themes emerged from the conference: patient engagement, interoperability, and data empowerment.
Power to the patient
You couldn’t walk more than a few steps (and, we were counting steps) at HIMSS15 without hearing the somewhat elusive term patient engagement. While there are somewhat divergent views about just what patient engagement means, whose responsibility it is, and how it can be quantified, there seems to be general agreement that more involved patients receive better healthcare.
As providers and payers attempt to engage patients more outside the four walls of clinics, digital health (i.e., wearables, EHRs, and mobile apps) is gaining traction. According to Todd Johnson, CEO of HealthLoop,
Increasingly, healthcare professionals know that they need to engage with patients at home in order to achieve better outcomes at reduced costs.
HealthLoop is a cloud-based patient monitoring and communication platform, which views patient engagement as an extension of customer service. According to its founder, Dr. Jordan Shlain,
Patient engagement is a buzzword, but customer service is nothing new. Smart hospitals and physicians are increasingly demanding CRM-style technology from the health IT sector.
Perhaps at issue here is our definition of patient: whether or not we believe that patients are active consumers (with or without choice of providers), and members of their health decision-making teams. Perhaps it is more an issue of how we define health: is it an event or a lifestyle?
However we define it, this quest to engage patients in their own care is certainly making its mark on the business of healthcare. There are opportunities for patient engagement at every step of patient care, from the ease of making appointments, to a smooth check-in process, to the ability to review their medical information with a caregiver. Patient engagement isn’t limited to wearables or mobile apps, and there doesn’t appear to be a silver bullet. Joe, DeSantis, Vice President of HealthShare Platforms, InterSystems, says:
A patient portal based on a single EHR is not enough to move patient engagement forward. Engagement needs to span the entire care continuum. The short-term focus on meaningful use has often been at the expense of long-term strategic goals.
Free all the data
Finally, data portability was a key theme at HIMSS15. Data portability is the ability to access patient data when and where it can be useful (and by patients and caregivers). There is a growing movement for patients to have access to their health data.
Although I intend to publish nuviun’s interview with patient advocate and artist, Regina Holliday, in the near future, suffice it to say that her Walking Gallery turned many heads at HIMSS15. Ms. Holliday tells her story so powerfully, with words and images, that everyone at HIMSS15 was at least asking “what’s the deal with the painted jackets?”. If they were as lucky as me (and I know many attendees were), they had the privilege of hearing Holliday’s battle for her husband’s medical information and the origins of the Walking Gallery.
As a parent who recently fought for access to her child’s data, this topic of data portability is inherently intertwined with interoperability and patient engagement.
In an education session at HIMSS15, Dr. Susan Woods, from the Veterans Health Administration, Jan Walker, co-director of OpenNotes, and Amy Gleason, COO of CareSync, discussed a study that looked at patients’ motivation for reading notes. Of those surveyed, 26% said they accessed their medical records because they wanted to know more about their health, 21% said they were curious, 21% said they wanted to understand what their provider said, 13% said they wanted to remember what happened in the visit, 9% said they wanted to check to see if the notes were right, and 6% said they wanted to know what the provider was thinking.
We’re in this together
At HIMSS15, the press had numerous opportunities to interact with representatives from the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONC) in addition to executives from over 1,300 vendors. Issues of interoperability were paramount in many of these discussions.
In a presentation, the Office of the National Coordinator defined interoperability as
the ability of a system to exchange electronic health information with and use electronic health information from other systems without special effort on the part of the user.
According to the ONC, achieving true interoperability should improve individuals’ experiences with the healthcare delivery system, reduce costs and increase efficiencies in care, and improve the health of populations.
“Technology should enhance care and reflect the realities of how it is delivered,” said Girish Navani, CEO and co-founder of eClinicalWorks. Navani continued:
Patients are seen in multiple settings that employ various systems. Our responsibility as vendors is to make this transition as seamless as possible. The work we have done with Carequality and Epic shows the commitment both our organizations have on what is truly important – giving providers the tools they need to deliver the best care possible to patients.
Although many stakeholders argue that someone else is responsible for these issues, at HIMSS15, there were murmurs of transparency and a distinct move toward interoperability – a sense that we’re all in this mess of IT development and the quest for better care together.
Look for more on these issues of digital health at the bleeding edge of patient engagement, data portability, and interoperability in the coming weeks.
The nuviun blog is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues in global digital health. The views are solely those of the author.