Our team is still recovering from HIMSS. Each year the event gets larger (I read attendance was just north of 40,000 this year) and longer (starting on Saturday this year and running until Thursday). It’s an exhausting event but also the conference for connecting with anybody in health tech, be they vendors, enterprises, government officials, consultants, or investors.
I think this is my 6th HIMSS and each year I’m shocked by the size of the exhibitor hall. The floor seems to go on forever. What’s most surprising is not the over-the-top mega booths for major vendors like Microsoft, Optum, and Epic, but the endless sea of booths with names and logos you don’t know. It speaks to the size of the healthcare technology market. If you pay attention, you quickly see seemingly “small” niches in healthcare can create large companies.
It’s always hard to summarize HIMSS. It’s like summarizing the industry generally. With that grain of salt, a few of the things we noticed consistently coming up are listed below.
I think this term was on 50% of booths. Care coordination is definitely a buzzword right now, and rightfully so as care becomes more team-based and handoffs become even more important. As we see new partnership models begin to emerge to share risk in care for patients (providers + payers + retail pharmacy, or some combination thereof), care coordination is essential to reducing cost and ultimately sharing in the savings (the business model for risk-based care). Care coordination, in addition to encompassing handoffs between traditional practice settings, also applies to handoffs with new and emerging types of virtual care.
Like care coordination, this is a topic that gets prime time at HIMSS. In fact, there’s an entire section of the exhibit floor called the Interoperability Showcase. That’s not new. What was new was how many people were discussing FHIR as the future of data exchange. I heard FHIR on panels in discussions with multiple vendors. Last year in Orlando I remember talking to Dave McCallie, MD, about the FHIR work Cerner was doing and some of the pilots they had started with a very, very small number of apps. That was about it. What’s interesting about FHIR, and the timing the groundswell, is FHIR’s most powerful application is likely in patient access to data, an area that took significantly reduced steps back last week with the ONC proposed changes to Meaningful Use Stage 2. Meaningful Use was a big topic at HIMSS, as it has been for the past several years, but it’s not worth calling out here.
I don’t remember there being an entire section of the floor dedicated to data security last year. Maybe there was and I missed it. But, I think all of the recent press about Anthem and CHS breaches has brought data security and HIPAA compliance to top of mind for most vendors and enterprises. As more digital health data is created and shared, the focus on data security is only going to grow in the coming years.
Watson + Apple
This was the big announcement everybody was talking about at HIMSS. There’s been a lot of speculation about Watson in healthcare but this is much more concrete than anything prior. With two acquisitions by IBM as part of the announcement (Phytel and Explorys) and partners like Apple, with its ResearchKit, and Johnson & Johnson, it was a story that was hard not to discuss. It’s still very early in the life of Watson in healthcare but we’ll be watching how it mashes up and uses the data from these new sources.
Compared to the Startup Showcase from last year, it felt like the startup section of HIMSS this year was bigger but also much harder to find on the exhibit floor. This year it was buried at the back of the north side of the hall and several people I met had a hard time finding it. The good news, at least compared to last year, is several of the companies, Datica included, have outgrown the startup pavilion.
Maybe it’s just our lens, but we’re very excited about the trends we saw. As a company that offers a platform and tools specifically for data security and interoperability, and works with a lot of startups, we couldn’t be happier at the overwhelming validation of the needs of the industry.
In terms of location, and having now been to all of the 4 venues that have been deemed large enough to host HIMSS (Chicago, New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Orlando), Chicago is by far the best. We may have lucked out with the weather, which is always a curve ball in Chicago, but the comparative ease of finding lodging, transportation (Uber surge pricing was in effect all week I think), and restaurants makes Chicago a better place for a conference this size. Next year the conference is in Las Vegas. We’ll see you there.