HIMSS19: Champions of Health Unite

This week I had the chance to attend HIMSS19 in Orlando for a few days on behalf of the new PBS Health Channel, on the lookout for stories about how healthcare internet, wireless and digital technology is transforming the practice of medicine—for the better. The theme this year was “HIMSS19: Champions of Health Unite.” If you want to learn more about Health Channel, visit our website for live programming each day until 2pm Eastern www.allhealthtv.com Health Channel will be launching an app in coming weeks, and there’s no better place to learn about health apps than HIMSS. That said, for an attendee, HIMSS can be just as overwhelming and disorienting as CES in many ways, but it has a far more serious purpose.

Now HIMSS19 is in the history books wrapping up another year of transformation in healthcare IT. While electronic health records (EHR) still hold a great deal of promise for transforming healthcare, the reality is many doctors and nurses still see the EHR as the worst part of their job and never intended to have a career where they spend more time staring at a computer screen than being face to face with their patients. Data entry is not many healthcare providers’ dream of practicing medicine. It’s getting better, but not as quickly as many healthcare professionals would like. Some are adapting well, some are opting out of medicine entirely.

While the advent of telemedicine, EHRs, and patient portals were meant to enhance patient engagement and improve outcomes, the net effect is too often a situation that what is supposed to be personalized medicine is impersonal. With rising medical costs and changes in insurance, patients are becoming increasingly conscious of cost and value. Patients now expect healthcare providers to offer the same kind of high-quality, personalized digital services they experience in their lives as consumers. But too many providers simply aren’t measuring up, leaving patients frustrated, angry and with a negative perception of the provider and the system itself.

Adapting to the internet of things (IOT) where devices talk to each other has been more complex in the medical field than expected because of the critical timeliness, essential nature of the information, interoperability challenges, patient confidentiality and the sheer volume of data. Artificial intelligence and machine learning offer great insights but also pose ethical questions.
Economic and social disparities of the digital divide can be amplified in this setting instead of being overcome.

If today’s health consumer is getting better medical information from their smartphone than from their doctor’s office, it’s a problem. Yet the majority of health information on Facebook is inaccurate. And downloads from a website alone do not equal true engagement. At the end of the day, it is still all about the patient provider relationship and putting a computer screen between the patient and the caregiver is not proving to be an effective solution.

There are many ways that technology has advanced the practice of medicine and improved patient outcomes, but we’re still closer to the beginning than the end of the process with many challenges ahead before we see true savings in cost, time and major improvements in the quality of life healthcare professionals in the system and the patients they serve.