Three-Word Call to Action from HIMSS 2018: Bias for Action

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At some point in my 27-plus years of attending HIMSS conferences, I realized the event offers more than insight from keynotes, panels, and demos. It provides a unique opportunity to assess the general state and ‘mood’ of the industry as a whole.

If I had to describe the vibe at HIMSS18 in one word, it would be: activism. All along the value chain, the bias seemed to be toward action—a determination to move ahead; to shake things up; to make progress.

In part, it’s the effect of disruptors and outsiders from new VC-backed startups to online retail giants who are introducing new delivery models, re-purposing technologies, and forming new partnerships to expand access, reduce costs, and improve the patient experience.

But they’re not alone.

Here are three takeaways of forward motion from Las Vegas:

  1. The rise of employer activism

The trend toward greater patient empowerment has long been recognized. A more recent development, however, is the transition employers are making from passive administrators to active negotiators and navigators of employee healthcare. At HIMSS18, this was evidenced by companies showcasing healthcare products targeting employers. One large-scale telehealth vendor, for example, was rolling out a new employer health and wellness portal.

Why is this noteworthy? The more than 150 million Americans who get their health insurance from their employers are starting to see more tailored healthcare products and services added to their portfolio of healthcare options. Rather than straight consumerism, let’s call this employer-ism—the value-add being that employers can bypass the lack of value chain in traditional healthcare models and instead go employer-direct.

A recent merger of a financial, tech and multinational conglomerate underscores this trend, as they look to leverage analytics to roll out better healthcare to all of their employees.

Interestingly, Dell has been leading the charge for some time, as evidenced by its employee healthcare program, Well at Dell. After nearly fifteen years of data-driven investmente, the plan offers a wide range of services beyond health insurance, including: transparency tools with cost and quality of care ratings and reviews, free counseling, free second opinions, help with billing/reimbursement disputes, 24/7 nurse hotline, telehealth at home or on the road, and advocates to help research treatment and medication options. A large percentage of Dell U.S. employees currently participate in a program that tracks and financially rewards improvements in lifestyle and habits.

  1. AI gets hype, as algorithms and analytics get real

Although futuristic artificial intelligence scenarios continued to garner attention at HIMSS18, there was growing awareness that cognitive robots wouldn’t be practicing translational and predictive medicine any time soon.

More immediate opportunities include the successful commercialization of data-driven diagnostic aids that help save lives and money. In fact, one of the fastest new product-to-market life cycles that I witnessed was from one of our own Dell EMC partners, Medical Informatics. In just a short time period, they progressed from raw data to diagnostic algorithm to embedding the algorithm in an FDA-approved, point of care (POC) workflow aimed at improving the physician’s decision-making process. That speed to market is unprecedented and will likely pave a path for similar advancements in health informatics.

Real progress has also been made in the ability to securely share all types of data, from genomics to digital pathology imaging, and to collaborate across organizations—a necessity in advanced analytics-driven environments. Edge computing technologies and intuitive cloud-based integration platforms were being showcased, providing a much-needed front-end for the growing portfolio of Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) and Internet of Healthy Things (IoHT). And elastic data platforms, like that from Dell EMC, demonstrated how to make it easier to share data and provide analytics-as-a-service at scale across organizations.

  1. It’s a Multi-Cloud World!

I was privileged to run a focus group on the topic of multi-cloud at HIMSS18.  Listening to the conversations among physicians, analysts, and HIT professionals, I was struck by how quickly they came to the consensus that healthcare—with its mergers and acquisitions, dependence on private and public clouds, influx of new connected devices, and shared ecosystems—is indeed a multi-cloud world.

The big question being asked was how to manage it. I found it instructive to hear how the focus has completely shifted from data center operations to intelligent software in the cloud as the logical point of integration, security, and compliance. Smaller organizations are looking for click-through access to packaged software-as-a-service and managed cloud solutions. Larger healthcare organizations are looking for a consistent way to manage IT service delivery and their full portfolio of clinical and business workloads across multiple (and interchangeable) cloud platforms—as well as to accelerate innovation and reduce costs through modern, cloud-native application development.

If HIMSS18 was where “The World Connects for Health” the multi-cloud is where healthcare connects to deliver more coordinated and efficient care.

As we look ahead, it will be interesting to see how these three areas play out in healthcare. What I can say for certain is that Dell EMC will continue the charge with our bias for action—making the future of healthcare real today by transforming HIT with our innovative technologies, products, solutions, people, and partnerships.

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