Live from HIMSS18: Unlocking information

Even though there’s a LOT going on at HIMSS18, there is one theme rising to the top for me. Hal Wolff, the CEO of HIMSS, summed it up nicely during his presentation Leveraging information and technology to minimize health’s economic challenges. He said unlocking information is going to be the key for the future of healthcare.

At the micro level, that can mean connecting the EMR with more complete medical imaging, including non-DICOM images or GI videos. At the macro level, as Wolff put it, unlocking information makes it possible to move to team and network-based care where people and systems across the continuum of care can communicate for better outcomes.

Is healthcare prepared for the next 5 – 10 years?

In his talk, Wolff shared why that network approach is necessary in facing healthcare’s financial crisis. That is, the impending ‘silver tsunami,’ when our aging population combined with a shrinking economic base will strain healthcare providers to deliver quality care in the face of limited resources.

According to Wolff, we have 5 to 10 years before we “go off the edge.”

Yikes. We won’t have the funds, clinicians, technology and other resources to adequately care for a population that needs more and more medical care.

What does that have to do with unlocking information? Wolff says freeing up critical data can facilitate the big change that’s needed in the way our healthcare systems – and technology systems – are designed.

He says an ideal healthcare system, and one that can thrive in the future, would have these six attributes:

  1. Information continuity
  2. Care coordination and transitions
  3. System accountability
  4. Peer review and teamwork for high-value care
  5. Continuous innovation
  6. Easy access to appropriate care

All of those attributes rely on a foundation of data and interoperability.

While that’s no simple task, Wolff summed up this big transformation with a quote: “The electric light bulb did not come about from incremental improvements to the candle.”

The key to the future

Beyond the changes in technology and infrastructure, he also warned that we can’t forget the people and processes that are necessary to support this upheaval for our clinicians, administrators and other staff members. The revolution we need in healthcare will fundamentally change how these people interact with patients and the functions they perform day-to-day. And the key to it all is unlocking information so we can provide the best care possible.

The prospect of that kind of change left me marveling at how healthcare technology leaders navigate the day-to-day to prepare for the future. But I left feeling a bit optimistic that by simply focusing, as Wolff did, on unlocking information, that we’ll all be able to ride all the waves coming at us in the years ahead.

McKinzey Saig

McKinzey Saig is a Public Relations Specialist at Hyland. She is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, and has spent more than a decade managing PR for Fortune 500 companies and consumer brands.

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