HIMSS 2022 – The Show Goes On!
STEPHEN KEELER | VP, Payer & Provider Sales]
Written off for dead by many due to the impact of the pandemic (and a horrible first-response to it in March 2020), HIMSS returned this year with renewed vim and vigor. Maybe it was the warm Florida sun, maybe everyone’s desire to just get out and meet again, whatever the reason, HIMSS far surpassed even the worst zombie expectations and registered over 25,000 attendees.
It could also be that less is more; the exhibit floor was smaller and therefore much more manageable than prior years. The vibe on the floor the first two days was palpable, with an even split between buyer-vendor and vendor-vendor conversations. At the same time in the theaters and lecture halls, there was no dearth of content, as the educational sessions seemed as numerous as before, with high-quality presentations from experts in their respective fields.
Topically, interoperability and the promise of full data liquidity dominated, thanks in no small measure to recent commands from the Feds for all data contributors and users to break down their silos and stop hoarding data. And, the race is on (the 21st century version of the 19th century Land Grant efforts) among buy-side and sell-side alike to obtain as much data as possible about patients, in order to feed the analytic and predictive modeling engines (among others) that have attracted so much investor money of late. In order to do anything with data, you first have to own it or have access to it (which answers in part the question of why the Googles of the world are back into the health IT space with such a vengeance.) And who owns the data? Well, if the messages at the booths of the bigger EMR vendors is any indication, it’s neither providers nor payers (and certainly not lowly patients) who own patient data; no, no, no, if that’s what you want, you’ll probably be paying the rates the EMRs will be setting, or go get your own.
Self-servingly, it’s clear that the market remains institutionally focused on “historical” data; i.e. abnormal value is placed on looking-back in time into various data sources (EMRs, claims data, lab data, pharmacy data, etc.) to do whatever buyers want to do with it (stratify patient populations to understand various risk elements, identify key patient types for different interventions, match patients with clinical trials, track trends at the population level, what have you). All good and noble things to do with data, but the backwards-looking focus is at risk to being up-ended by the new kid on the data block, “real-time” data that captures patient vitals, symptoms, social determinants, economic barriers and more, any of which could change the relative value of historical data sets, and thereby the conclusions drawn from them. While the pandemic clearly slowed down the move to value-based care, this mega-trend is gaining steam again, and stands to take the greatest advantage from the insights and visibility gained by focusing on real-time data and forward-looking models (predictive modeling and genomics, among others). After all, the ACOs and other such entities are at risk for the attributed lives and can’t afford to just rely on what historical data provides. Anticipate and adjust in real-time is the mantra for ACOs.
Second among topics in the sessions and on the floor was awareness of just how wide the gaps are in healthcare, made so apparent and even wider by the pandemic. Demand-side gaps in health equity, in access, in affordability, in literacy, in many, many ways weigh heavily on the social and industry fabric of healthcare, exacerbated by supply-side gaps such a provider burnout and rural deserts. Strategies and solutions to close those gaps were very much on the minds of presenters, attendees, and vendors alike, and could be the real raison d’etre that would enable HIMSS to survive and thrive beyond the pandemic.