As SIM Partners’ vice president of technology, I attended the HIMSS Conference in Orlando February 19-23 hoping to walk in the shoes of our healthcare clients from a technology perspective. The event helped me understand how far we have to go as an industry and how much opportunity exists for healthcare to embrace technology. Here are three examples:

 

Artificial Intelligence

Organizations such as IBM offered an exciting vision for how healthcare systems can apply AI to manage personal health. In fact, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty delivered a keynote on cognitive healthcare, which applies cognitive learning to improve patient health in a more cost effective way. (IBM launched IBM Watson to apply AI for businesses, and IBM Watson Health is doing the same for healthcare.)

AI is also shaping the future of the work a company like SIM Partners does to help healthcare systems improve patient access and retention. One of the biggest challenges that our healthcare clients face is helping patients find the right provider in their moment of need, as my colleague Adam Dorfman noted in his own blog post about HIMSS 2017. As Adam discussed, patients seeking care need to apply a number of complex filters to find the right provider at the right place and time. Those filters include insurance covered, areas of specialty provided, location, accreditation, and ratings/reviews, among many others. The SIM Partners Velocity Health platform helps patients find providers by working with healthcare systems to constantly review, update, and distribute their data so that their information is available when searches are done. We believe that AI will help us perform this complex matching with even more precision and speed than anyone can do today, especially for complex, symptom-based research. The event inspired me to continue our own AI research and development.

 

Patient Engagement

Like most other events, HIMSS 2017 featured a good deal of conversation about improving patient engagement from awareness to treatment to post-treatment care. At HIMSS, I heard a lot of talk about consumerism, or healthcare systems treating patients in a more responsive, retail-like fashion. Moreover, population health — or defining health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group — defined much of the conversation. Those two topics are converging to compel healthcare systems to engage with patients in a more personal way based on how patient populations are defined.

Our role right now is to improve patient engagement across the entire journey, with SIM Partners improving the discovery, access, and retention functions largely through improved search. The event reminded me of how far the industry has to go to support all forms of patient engagement with technology. For instance, many healthcare systems believe they are properly engaging with patients through the creation of portals that give patients complete access to their records, history, and payment data. But the mere existence of portals is not enough. The portals need to provide strong functionality with an elegant user experience, when in fact too many provide a very dated patient experience. Providing a patient portal is just table stakes for engagement. My colleagues and I in the industry need to push healthcare systems to make patient engagement better. We need to challenge the status quo.

 

Integration

Finally, I walked away from the event inspired to pursue the holy grail of healthcare service: integration, or bringing different pieces of functionality to service one patient. Our own research into patient omnichannel discovery underscores how much patients are crying out for an integrated experience. Healthcare marketers understand this reality, but technology does not always appreciate how terms like “omnichannel discovery” relate to better patient care. For instance, healthcare systems’ technology departments do not always realize that provider directories need to share the same kind of provider information that patients find when they encounter a provider’s location pages directly through Google on their mobile devices. There is much work to be done in order to manage the moving parts required to provide an integrated experience.

I returned from HIMSS 2017 inspired to make technology live up to its promise as an enabler for a better healthcare experience. Did you attend HIMSS and if so what were your impressions and takeaways from the event? Leave a comment here or contact us to hear more about what SIM is doing in Health IT.

 

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