This isn’t just some glorified LAN party in the basement of a Super 8. If medtech had a Super Bowl, or a WrestleMania, then Health Information Management and Systems Society’s (HIMSS) annual conference is it. Over 40,000 health IT professionals, clinicians, executives, and vendors from around the world converge for a week of incredible keynotes, networking, 300+ education programs, and cutting-edge health IT product showcases. This year’s event, held in Orlando, didn’t disappoint.

Our politicians may not be able to agree on what the future of health care looks like in the U.S., but, for those of us in tech, the future is yesterday. As we at tekMountain are always glad to be in the thick of tomorrow’s innovations, here are our top five takeaways from HIMSS17:

1) Cognitive health care systems are “real,” “mainstream,” and “can change almost everything about health care.” Ginni Rometty, President and CEO of IBM

Despite IBM Watson’s recent setback, keynote speaker Rometty doubled down on the future of cognitive technologies and precision medicine, which she likened to humanity’s next “moonshot.” As Rometty hopes cognitive health care can come together the same way competitive organizations and vendors did to make the World Wide Web a reality, she gave the Orlando crowd her own 5-point list on how this needs to play out:

1) Those who become successful will end up applying a range of cognitive services. Recent advancements in AI such as natural language are only the starting point. Health care’s supercomputing needs vision way beyond now, needs deep learning, and many more algorithms.

2) Developers must provide transparency. Everyone from medical staff to hospital administration to patients will want to know who has trained the cognitive services, what data was used, and how vendors achieved the highest level of confidence in their insights.

3) Any cognitive services must be trained by health care professionals. Any shortcuts could not only result in serious harm to patients, but to the “cognitive era” itself.

4) Of course these services need to be cloud-based to make them ubiquitous, but this cloud must be built for Big Data, built for security, and for hybrid interaction within such a wide ecosystem.

5) Since innovation doesn’t come from one person, cognitive technologies must be open platforms.

2) “They’ll fix Obamacare, and I shouldn’t have called it repeal and replace because that’s not what’s going to happen. They’re basically going to fix the flaws and put a more conservative box around it.” John Boehner, former Speaker of the House

Boehner believes that, when it comes to the Republican Congress and how it will handle the Affordable Care Act, perfect is the enemy of the good. 

“In the 25 years that I served in the United States Congress, Republicans never, ever, one time agreed on what a health-care proposal should look like. Not once,” Boehner said.

Boehner went on to say that, if Republicans merely repeal Obamacare without replacing it, then even the good that it had accomplished is gone, and breaking that system falls into the Republicans’ lap, especially during midterm elections.

“Most of the Affordable Care Act, in the framework, is going to stay there: coverage for kids up to age 26, covering those with preexisting conditions. All of that’s going to be there. Subsidies for those who can’t afford it, who aren’t on Medicaid, who I call the working poor, subsidies for them will be there,” Boehner said.

3) The current auditing by Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights is “really about identifying best practices and risks across identities. It’s about figuring out where we need to be doing more.” Deven McGraw, deputy director for health information privacy at the OCR

McGraw’s talk concerned the OCR’s 2017 goals, but with a caveat—every administration refocuses the OCR’s priorities, and when McGraw and company are replaced by Trump’s team, the HHS office could move in any direction. As of right now, McGraw hopes the work ahead will be all about interoperability:

  • “Provisions for researchers accessing data.
  • Guidance for mental health providers about sharing data on mental health patients with family members, without first contacting the patient.
  • HITECH provisions to create a methodology for patients harmed by HIPAA violations.
  • Regulatory agenda for precision medicine access rule.
  • Developing a set of FAQs for individuals asserting their right to send personal data to a research provider.
  • Text-messaging guidance, answering questions on whether a provider can text with patients
  • Social media usage when it comes to patient health information, which will govern when this data can be used.
  • Working with ONC on EHR usage and what that means for HIPAA security, including encryption”

(Healthcare IT News)

4) HIMSS17’s Interoperability Showcase suggests that the age of standards-based interoperability is at hand.

Through learner stations, product tours, case demonstrations, and peer-to-peer discussions, the Interoperability Showcase highlighted how organizations are striving more and more to collaborate on building universal standards for health IT. Showcase tours centered around:

  • Accountable Care: Opioid Management
  • Athletic Injury
  • Child Birthing
  • Childhood Asthma
  • Connected Care Through HL7 FHIR®
  • Federal Health Architecture in Action
  • On The Road to Cancer Care 2020
  • Revenue Cycle of the Future
  • Health & Fitness

 5) “Two-thirds of respondents experienced a recent significant security incident but reported only an average level of confidence in being prepared to defend against cyber attacks.” 2016 HIMSS Cybersecurity Survey

HIMSS17 also offered a special exhibit on state-of-the-art cybersecurity for Health IT. Too many health care entities are still mostly crossing their fingers when it comes to the impenetrability of their data security. At the Cybersecurity Command Center, attendees:

  • Heard from private sector experts on the challenging and dynamic cyber threat landscape and how threats are being tackled.
  • Learned about cutting-edge technologies, and obtained the best know-how to prepare any organization to defend against cyber adversaries.
  • Participated in engaging interactive hands-on activities
  • Attended over 28 educational sessions to enhance knowledge regarding cyber issues of the day.

Any conference is a good time, but what are you doing with all that info?

Because tech in any industry replaces itself at hyperspeed, there’s often a short shelf-life on the mind-blowing concepts and products and services you learn about at an innovation conference. But what truly lasts, and what helps perpetuate progressive tech, are the personal connections made in between all the event slots.

As an innovation and entrepreneurial center focused on medtech, HRtech, and edtech, we at tekMountain were happy to meet so many people making incredible things happen in their particular spaces.

For instance, we met with David Metcalf, who is a Senior Researcher and Director of UCF’s Mixed Emerging Technology Integration Lab (METIL), Institute for Simulation & Training.  At METIL, edtech research is conducted on blended learning via mobile, games, and virtual worlds.

We also spoke with Alan Bateman, Health Industry Workforce Management Strategy Director for Infor, an enterprise software provider and strategic technology partner for more than 90,000 organizations worldwide. Bateman and his company are at the forefront of HRtech innovation.

It awesome to connect with Cedars-Sinai’s innovation space as well. As a Tech Stars accelerator, the organization selects innovation companies which then are granted access to the world’s leading physicians and researchers to help advance technology that empowers the patient or healthcare professional to better track, manage, and improve health and healthcare delivery.

And, since all of these amazing ideas need money to get them rolling, it’s heartening to see people like Taha Jangda from HealthX Ventures out there fighting the good fight. HealthX, fund based in Madison, Wisconsin,is a digital healthcare-focused seed helping to drive that grand scope of vision which makes gatherings like HIMSS17 not only possible, but edifying and directive.

It’s this sort of symbiotic networking that continues to spread and strengthen innovative efforts all over the world, and especially here in southeastern NC at tekMountain.


This blog was produced by the tekMountain Team of Sean AhlumAmanda SipesBill DiNome, and with lead writer Zach Cioffi

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