With over 40,000 attendees, and 1,300 vendor exhibitors HIMSS is the largest healthcare IT conference in North America, and perhaps even the world. Thus, I could only attend a small fraction of sessions and visit an even a smaller section of vendor booths.  As a professional involved in the business of software, here are the key points I noted.

  1. There is an increasing need for using software/IT to deliver better patient care, more cost efficiently. From all indications, it seems that this will be a growing market segment, driven by both providers and payers. This healthcare IT sector is not showing any signs of slowing down in the near future.
  2. Most healthcare organizations (hospitals, physician practices, insurance companies, etc.) know very little about modern software development techniques and technologies. Many software vendors in this industry are in a similar boat; they understand the healthcare domain and the problem they are solving but are not as sophisticated in their software development approach.
  3. The EMR/EHR adoption is quite wide scale now. However, all of these institutions are “data rich, information poor; that is they have lots of data but little (clinically) actionable information. ” Essentially, they are glorified “data stores” – with poor UX that lack meaningful workflow capabilities, or clinical intelligence driven by rich data (that they already have). Most of the new innovation and opportunities are in accomplishing these clinical goals. The main EMR/EHR vendors are: EPIC, Cerner, AllScripts, Meditech, AthenaHealth, and eClinicalWorks.
  4. The industry is making efforts to come up with standards for data exchange and interoperability across these large vendor systems, in the same way that the wireless telecom industry did many years ago to allow wireless phone interoperability. So far, HL7 and CDA mechanisms are there, but they have their limitations. A new initiative, called the Argonaut Project, promises to offer a RESTful API standard, called FHIR, which will be supported by all leading EMR/EHR vendors.
  5. There is a general trend away from “fee for care” to “outcomes based payment” model. Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) are on the rise. ACOs take full ownership for a patient population and have to optimize patient outcomes and costs. The healthcare industry is looking to software/IT in large part because ACOs need to use data analytics achieve efficiency of care delivery.
  6. Tele-medicine is expected to continue to grow. It just makes too much sense. After all, a doctor remotely diagnosing based on image/video is no different than a local doctor doing the same looking at the same image/video on a screen.
  7. For a software professionals like Synerzip, here are some specific, big opportunity areas to drive improvement and innovation:
    1. Interoperability across these EMR/EHR systems. Over time, as a patient visits many hospitals or physican practices, a doctor should be able to see an integrated view of a patient’s medical records. This is not possible today.
    2. Poor UX. Each clinician needs a user friendly, context relevant work workflow, that is integrated, without needing them to go from one system to another (switching windows, logging in/out, cutting and pasting data, etc.).  A doctor/nurse needs to able to see full picture of a patient (“complete story”) not just fragments of data about a patient, which is the case today in these systems.
    3. While there is a lot of data stored in each island, there is need to analyze this to provide insights that are clinically relevant. Real-time analyses, e.g. while a doctor is talking to patient, is quite valuable in delivering better patient care.   There is big opportunity to use techniques like, predictive analytics, machine learning, natural language processing, cognitive analytics, etc.
      1. Big opportunity to apply cognitive analytics techniques. 88% of clinical data and 84% of claims data is unstructured data.
      2. eCommerce vendors like Amazon offer much more actionable information to their users (“customers who bought this, also looked at these…”) than EMRs/EHRs provide today.
    4. Continuum of care facilitation. As US population is aging, it is quite common to see a typical patient moving from one care facility to another, and to yet another (e.g. acute care hospital setting, to a skilled nursing facility, to a rehab center). In these cases, the patient data needs to be able to move with them, without requiring double data entry, or duplicate lab tests, etc.
    5. Internet of (healthcare) things. A typical hospital room has at least 12 networked devices. Multiply that by the number of rooms in hospital, and you get a large and complex network of devices, producing and consuming data. All this data exchange needs to be secure and lend itself for action ability.
    6. Network and data security (due to PHI and HIPAA) is an important need in this market.   Patient medical data is considered to be more valuable than credit card/financial data, which means there is ample opportunity in the realms of penetration testing, data breach testing, etc.