5 Takeaways From HIMSS 2018

This year’s HIMSS conference didn’t disappoint when it comes to getting a great view of where healthcare technology is going and what is top of mind for those on the frontlines. Here are our top 5 insights from HIMSS 2018.

1. Artificial intelligence: Is the current hype setting false expectations?

AI was the top trend at HIMSS this year. There were many emerging examples of where AI is being used. We also heard lots of different definitions of artificial intelligence. AI comprises several different technologies. The three we see most commonly used today are machine learning, deep learning (a subset of machine learning), and cognitive systems. These can be used discretely or in combination with one another.

AI offers an array of potential solutions for healthcare when it comes to diagnosing diseases and pinpointing personalized treatment plans. However, I heard many people talking about the opportunity to prioritize operational use cases for AI which could demonstrate value and provide ROI. We heard several longtime healthcare analytics professionals express concern about a second “AI winter” if hype continues to over promise on what AI can do in the near term. They also mentioned lack of access to data scientists and other experts who could deliver on the promises of AI within their organizations.

2. Data is king—but still hard to work with

Electronic medical records (EMRs) are one of the healthcare industry’s largest and most elusive white whales. On their own, they will never be the panacea for all of healthcare’s data and analytics needs. Billions have been invested in EMRs over the last several years, but now it’s time to find the best ways to leverage that data and other healthcare related data that is also in electronic form. Organizations realize that there is value in their data, but it’s still a challenge to unlock that value. There are three key reasons for this:

  • Interoperability – For all the discussion on interoperability over the past few years, this is still a real problem for most of the people we talked to.
  • Tools/talent – Getting the right people and systems in place to consolidate siloed data sources and then turn that data into actionable insights is a challenge. There is a huge spectrum here from not having a data lake platform to lacking talented application developers to building clinician-facing solutions to expose insights
  • Sponsorship for the right use cases – Building a sustainable portfolio of high-value use cases that have the right level of internal support is difficult. Clinical team members need to “own” these solutions, but getting their sustained support is difficult.

3. Great opportunity for solutions providers

EMRs do exist, but the technology hasn’t fully delivered in the area of providing insights or seamlessly fitting into clinical workflows. Sometimes data isn’t accessible, and health systems often have to consult with skunkworks or third parties in order to extract insights from their data. The market opportunity around healthcare’s digital transformation is no secret.

As a result, there has been a flood of new technology providers entering the market for everything from AI to home health. Bringing together different technologies into end-to-end solutions is a real challenge. Not enough skilled third parties exist to do this work, and internal teams aren’t staffed adequately to own this at scale. We definitely see the need for greater cross-industry consortiums to drive open standards and vendor collaboration around industry challenges.

An additional need is more work around user experience and how to best integrate these new capabilities into the clinical workflow. Solutions that work in other industries may need a fair amount of customization and rework in order to fully make sense in a healthcare environment or even in the patient’s home.

4. Distributed care is coming in a big way

Population health, the “Silver Tsunami,” and rural care are all trends driving organizations to adopt more distributed care solutions. These solutions are a combination of different technologies including telemedicine, remote monitoring, and home care services. Attendees were talking about the potential that 5G has to provide new and more real-time methods for distributed care. But for most of the people we talked to, it was not clear yet what the impact of moving to 5G will be on technology infrastructure.

5. Disruption is happening

The Berkshire/JPMorgan/Amazon announcement to create their own health system for their employees, as well as Intermountain’s announcement about a new collaboration to produce generic medications, were examples of the type of innovation and disruption coming to healthcare. Healthcare has great potential to leverage technology to improve. One theme we kept coming back to at HIMSS was its transformation from a “sick business” to a “health business.”

Healthcare has traditionally been a reactive industry, with caregivers swooping in to treat diseases, set broken bones, or alleviate symptoms. Now healthcare can do so much more. New sources of patient data and AI can help healthcare providers make smarter predictions about overall patient health, be proactive with treatment, and improve overall quality of life. The potential to create actionable insights is far from impossible. This challenges the traditional view of healthcare.

At HIMSS, Eric Schmidt, the technical advisor and former executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, laid out a vision of healthcare moving to the cloud. A major motivator for Schmidt was the slow pace of transformation elsewhere in the healthcare industry. Beyond the obvious call to use more technology, Schmidt’s presentation was a clear sign that the new generation of data-driven enterprises will be bringing their skills to bear in order to capture healthcare market share. And with their direct consumer relationships through existing products and platforms, who “owns” the patient in the future could look very different than today.


To learn more about how Intel is enabling healthcare transformation, visit our healthcare portal page. You can also keep up with the latest technology trends in health and life sciences on the IT Peer Network.

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Jennifer Esposito

About Jennifer Esposito

Jennifer believes that technology has the power to accelerate the transformation of healthcare and to improve health, quality of life, safety, and security worldwide. She works with companies, organizations, and governments around the world to help make this digital transformation real, today. With 20 years of experience, Jennifer brings deep healthcare, life sciences, and biotechnology industry expertise along with a foundation in information and communication technology, and a view that spans across multiple other industries. Jennifer has a graduate degree from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice at Dartmouth College, where she focused on Epidemiology and Biostatistics. During her time at GE Healthcare, she became a certified Six Sigma Black Belt and remains a full member of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine. Jennifer is the co-chair of the Global Health Security Agenda Private Sector Roundtable and sits on the boards of Digital Square and USA Healthcare Alliance. Follow her @Jennifer_Espo and @IntelHealth.