Wednesday, December 20, 2017

HIMSS18 Preview: What Are This Year’s Hot Topics?

In 2016 and again in 2017 I analyzed the educational sessions at the HIMSS Conference and Expo to determine what the popular topics of conversation would be. Here is this year’s edition.

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Overall there are 300 sessions, a modest 6% increase from last year. The number of categories has now increased to 24, which is higher than 2015’s 22 categories. As we saw between 2015 and 2016, it seems likely that we’ll see some reductions and eliminations next year to reduce the number of categories.
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Privacy and Security

Unsurprisingly, Privacy and Security remains the most popular category. No doubt this reflects the ongoing cybersecurity problems and breaches plaguing the industry. There are 10 fewer sessions in this group, however, (31 vs. last year’s 41) perhaps indicating that the category is running out of steam and may begin trending downward next year.

Emerging Payment Models for Value-Based Care versus Consumer and Patient Engagement

A quick look at the year-to-year changes shows that Changing Payment Models was near the bottom of the list in 2015 and rose to mid-pack (and was renamed to Business of Healthcare and New Payment Models) in 2016 and 2017. This year it drops lower in the rankings (and changes its name again to Emerging Payment Models for Value-Based Care).

This may indicate that 2016 and 2017 were the hot years for talking about risk-sharing arrangements, such as ACOs. Now that providers and payers are better aligned, there is less to talk about in this category. However, the patient remains left out of alignment with the other two members of the payer/provider/patient triad, and we see that Consumer and Patient Engagement has risen to the number 2 position; it was tied for 6th last year. It’s likely this upward momentum will continue into 2019, and the Consumer and Patient Engagement category may overtake Privacy and Security as its hold on the top spot weakens.

Connected Health and Telehealth

Remote patient visits have been trending for quite some time, but in 2017 there were some changes in reimbursement policy and regulation that will make it easier for providers to see patients remotely (and get paid for the encounters).

In addition to the 25 educational sessions about telehealth, over 150 companies will be exhibiting at the Expo in this category.

Data Analytics/Clinical and Business Intelligence

Business intelligence and analytics are the real goals of health IT. The true value of data is in elevating it to actionable information, and that’s why this category has risen to (tied for) third on this year’s list.

Notably, the category was fairly highly ranked in 2015, but it spent 2016 and 2017 toward the bottom of the lists. My interpretation of this pattern is that there was high interest in the topic in 2015, but the implementation was premature. Hospitals needed to finalize and optimize their EHR implementations before being able to turn their attention to the high-value category of analytics and BI. EHR implementations are now fairly mature, and it’s time to return to the topic of converting EHR data into a valuable asset.

Public Policy

One of four new categories in 2018, public policy debuts with 21 sessions. Public policy includes legislation, regulation, and compliance. These are huge drivers in health care, and it’s surprising this category hasn’t been seen before.

Care Coordination, Culture of Care, and Population Health

This was the number 2 category last year, and this year it is split into two separate categories that, together, include 39 sessions (versus 32 in last year’s single category). Although it looks like this category has fallen down the list, it would actually be at the top if it hadn’t been broken up.

The interesting aspect of the category split is where the boundary was drawn. Population Health, which deals with health issues in the aggregate, is separated from Culture of Care and Care Coordination, which concern individual patient needs. These are macro and micro sides of the same coin. Vendors may choose to specialize in one area or the other, but providers will need to master both in order to succeed in a value-based health care system.

Pharmacy Standards and Technology

This is another new category for 2018, and it may reflect a growing emphasis on opioid abuse and treatment. Part of the solution to the epidemic will rely on standards and technology, so this is a category that’s likely to gain in popularity over the next few years.

Social, Psychosocial, Behavior Determinants of Health

Yet another new category, Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) relates to the broader context that impacts a patient’s wellness. As emphasis shifts from treating illness to promoting wellness, it becomes more and more important for caregivers to track social determinants alongside factors such as allergies, problems, and medications.


The Bottom Line

As always, the HIMSS educational sessions reflect the broad trends in health IT. Of course, proposals for sessions are due well in advance of the conference, so trends in the categories are not a leading indicator of emerging priorities. Rather, they reflect trends that are well underway and need to be discussed by the broad audience of stakeholders that the HIMSS Conference and Expo attracts. If the hot topics outlined here are not on your radar, now’s the time to start tracking them!