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A Health and Human Services Announcement Overshadowed the Conference’s Focus on Innovation and Interoperability
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"Champions of health, unite" was the call to action of the annual Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference, held Feb. 11-15 in Orlando. The event, which attracted more than 43,000 attendees and 1,300 exhibitors, also featured more than 500 educational sessions plus daily keynote addresses and panel discussions featuring many of the movers and shakers in healthcare delivery. The intent of HIMSS19 was to mobilize the participants in healthcare delivery to promote innovation and seek ways to radically improve the quality of healthcare while driving down costs using technology. Participants were exhorted to make a difference where they live and share the successes with the HIMSS community. In practice, the call to action focused on three primary themes: innovation, interoperability, and information security. Each was reflected in the many exhibitor booths on the conference floor.Innovation: This was the catchword for the conference. Attendees were told to seek innovative solutions to healthcare problems and foster innovation in their organizations. In practice, this translates into a focus on technologies that are perceived to be innovative. As an example, many vendors claimed some form of AI capability; even when that was a stretch, AI was noted an enabling technology. The Internet of Things also was a hot topic, with more than one vendor looking at its implications for cybersecurity. Cloud services, too, were noted as an important enabler of an agile healthcare IT infrastructure. Interoperability: As the keynotes disclosed, healthcare IT suffers from a lack of overall system and data integration that enables connectivity between disparate systems and vendors. Data is often compartmentalized and unavailable for use between systems. Standards such as Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, while useful at a summary level, are not sufficient to provide comprehensive patient information between systems and providers. The notion of open APIs received a lot of support from vendors, although their definitions of what constitutes an open API varied. Information security: Cybersecurity was a big focus of the conference, with a specific area devoted to security solution providers. In addition, virtually every health IT vendor had something to say about securing patient data. Access control, perimeter control in a fuzzy network environment, and data encryption were principal areas of interest. One notion that resonated with the cybersecurity community was the idea of cybersecurity being the platform on which innovation is built.Author: Mike Jude
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