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HIStalk Interviews Blain Newton, SVP/COO, HIMSS Analytics

April 30, 2014 Interviews No Comments

Blain Newton is SVP/COO of HIMSS Analytics of Chicago, IL.

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Tell me about yourself and HIMSS Analytics.

I started in IT, with a focus on healthcare IT, probably 15 years ago as an accountant in finance. I moved into operations and strategy at some large EMR vendors, both here and in the UK. I was CEO of CapSite, acquired by HIMSS. I joined the HIMSS Analytics business unit from there.

HIMSS Analytics is the sister company to HIMSS North America, which is what most people think of when they think of HIMSS. We’re a market research firm with a number of market intelligence solutions, databases, and a suite of customized consulting services. We’re the data and the information behind the HIMSS EMR Adoption Model that you’ll see a number of hospitals and vendors post on your site about on occasion as they reach Stage 7.

 

Describe how HIMSS Anayltics operates as part of HIMSS.

We’re part of HIMSS Worldwide. We’re a strategic business unit of HIMSS Worldwide, as is HIMSS North America, HIMSS International, and HIMSS Media Group. We’re not-for-profit. We are part of the cause-based, mission-based organization that HIMSS is.

We operate independently. We help vendors make more strategic, informed decisions about going to market and how they’re competing in the landscape. We help providers make more informed IT investment and deployment decisions. 

We are separate entirely from the HIMSS North America that you’d be familiar with the trade show or with membership or with advocacy operations. We’re run as a cause-based not-for-profit, but separately run from the broader HIMSS.

 

CapSite had interesting offerings like market research and the contracts database. What elements of CapSite have been rolled into HIMSS Analytics?

The really good thing is there was really very little overlap in the HIMSS Analytics offerings and the CapSite offerings. They’ve been integrated in a very complementary fashion.

We still offer the CapSite database of contracts and proposals. There’s over 6,000 of them covering 150 categories. Actual Ts and Cs, actual pricing information, to help vendors understand how their competitors are going to market, to help providers understand where they can mitigate risk and potentially negotiate better deals. That still exists and is being integrated more fully with the HIMSS Analytics database, which was an existing asset.

The market research and reports that you’re talking about also still exist, although we’re now leveraging the information that we get in the HIMSS Analytics database to add even more flavor and information to these reports. 

In the next 12 months or so, you’re going to see a different spin on those. It’s still the same level of information coming from the market research, the same kind of color to the palette, let’s say. Who’s doing what in the market and why and why decisions are being made, along with a historical view of what has happened in the market over the last few years and where the market stands today as far as market share, mind share, etc. Those offerings still exist and are being built out to leverage the strength of the HIMSS Analytics tools in a more robust way.

 

How do you collect the information for the database?

For the HIMSS Analytics database, we do a census survey of every hospital in the country, as well as Canada and several other countries across Europe and Asia. It’s not census-based in Europe and Asia, but in the US we reach out to well over 5,400 hospitals that have another 40-plus thousand affiliated ambulatory practices and a number of ACOs. We talk to their CIOs or others to gather information about what IT they’re using, how they’re using it, etc. What their replacement plans are for those technologies.

On the CapSite database, we also work with the provider organizations directly and gather this information under the Freedom of Information Act. As part of a cause-based organization, we bring that information in and we redact it so there’s nothing proprietary going out. We’re not in the business of sharing vendors’ family secrets and we’re not in the business of exposing any healthcare organization. Our role with the CapSite database is providing a level of transparency in the IT procurement cycle. But again, it’s all gathered under the Freedom of Information Act.

 

What products do you sell and who buys them?

We sell the HIMSS Analytics Database to vendors. They use the tool to understand where they fit in the competitive landscape. Helping them understand market share, where there’s market opportunity, where they can better present their offerings to the market.

From the providers’ standpoint, they also utilize the HIMSS Analytics database — it’s free of charge to them — to help them benchmark themselves against their peers, help them understand where they fit on the maturity models that we have out — the EMR Adoption Model, the Ambulatory Adoption Model, the DELTA Powered Analytics Assessment — we have a number of maturity models.

On the CapSite side, vendors also purchase the CapSite database to understand how they’re presenting themselves and proposing themselves against their competition. Providers use it, as you can imagine, to understand when they’re sitting at a data negotiating table, how are they mitigating their risk, how are they making sure they’re getting a good deal for their organization.

To complement those market intelligence solutions, which is what we call those databases, we offer a variety of customized research capabilities, whether it be helping providers do gap analysis and roadmap assessments for where should they spend that next dollar of IT budget or for vendors helping make strategic decisions about product direction and where they should take their portfolio as well as how they can maximize the products that they have in market today through understanding their client base better through voice of client engagements, win/loss engagements. Win/loss engagement is tailored to and tied to the market intelligence tools that we have to do more than just win/loss — it’s focused on organizational improvements to help capitalize on the market better. 

Then of course we offer the research reports that you talked about. We have a tool called the Essentials Report that we put out as well as the CapSite syndicated reports. As I said, we’re going to be merging those two together into a new and improved Essentials for the next 12 to 18 months.

 

Is it typical for a member organization to conduct market research of members who are prospects and sell that information to members who are vendors?

We view it a little bit differently than that. We look at it as the way that we’re helping with the cause of better healthcare IT. We’re trying to bring transparency to the entire procurement cycle. 

To the extent that we can help a provider understand what they should be looking for in terms of next steps in technology, how they should deploy it — that’s a positive. To the extent that we can help a vendor position their product in a way that will more effectively meet the needs of the provider — that’s a benefit. 

We don’t look at it in terms of, we’re going to help you sell your product. We look at it and say, the more transparency that we can bring into this cycle, the less cost will be present in it, the more openness and transparency will be in it, and the better off everybody is for doing it. We’re really just trying to bring information to the market and let the parties on either side of the table make decisions based on that information.

 

Do you contact every hospital in the country? What kind of logistics are required to do that?

We do. Much of it’s self-reported. We have tools in place to allow the provider organization to self-report much of the data. So much of what we do is validation and gap fill. In exchange for getting peer benchmarking reports, in exchange for understanding whether organizations fit on the EMR Adoption Model and other maturity models, many of the participating organizations — which is virtually all — self-report much of the data.

 

What trends are you seeing that most people wouldn’t have expected?

I don’t know if there’s anything terribly surprising based on what’s out there and what folks read on your blog. But as you can imagine, folks are now moving beyond Meaningful Use Stage 1 and understanding what’s going next. A lot of it is optimization of what’s already been bought. There’s still much to do in doing that.

But the biggest trend we’re seeing is this push towards patient engagement and care outside of the walls of an organization. How do you care for that patient and what is the value proposition to do so? There’s a lot of interest right now in understanding that and moving towards that. As we’ve gathered all this data as part of setting up our EMRs, now what do we do with it and what is the value proposition behind it? 

I don’t think it’s anything terribly surprising. Different organizations are at different stages of it. Some of that depends on whether or not they have patient lives at risk under a healthcare plan, for example. They may be more inclined to understand care beyond the walls than somebody that doesn’t have those patient lives at risk as part of a healthcare plan. But again, it’s just really understanding now we have all this data, what do we do with it? 

We launched at the last annual conference in Orlando a couple of additional maturity models to help organizations make sense of that, the Continuity of Care Model and the Total Revenue Management Model.

 

Part of the transparency that’s most needed is the products someone bought that didn’t work out as they expected or the lessons they learned the hard way in implementing new ideas or strategies. Do you report any of that?

We don’t report it, per se, as part of data. We do look at adoption of technology. We can look through and say, this particular solution has not been adopted to the level that others have. That’s hard to say whether or not it was product implementation or organizational. We don’t get into that level of detail. 

As you know, you’ve been in this game a long time, a perfectly good solution could not be as successful as folks wanted it to be for any variety of reasons. It’s rarely just because of the solutions, so we don’t report them that directly. We do help vendors who are trying to improve their retention rate, improve their win rates. We do go in through qualitative and quantitative research, help them understand why their solutions are being adopted successfully or not, and help them make those organizational improvements to do so.

We think that’s in the best interest of the industry as a whole. If we can get all the vendors better understanding how they can be successful, then that’s a good thing for everybody.

 

Are vendor user groups the best place for that to happen? People seem to just want to know what their fellow customers did, what problems they had, and how they solved them.

I think vendor user groups can be very successful. In a previous life, I was very active as a moderator in a vendor user group and I saw tremendous value come out of it, as long as there was that willingness to be open and honest about strengths and weaknesses on both the provider and the vendor side. I think that’s just one avenue to start to get this information out there.

We try to do it through a variety of mechanisms — through focus groups, webinars, and vendor user groups. We work closely with the HIMSS regional chapters to try to share this information with members and vendors. I think it’s a powerful forum, the vendor user groups, but it’s one of many.

 

What changes do you expect with HIMSS Analytics and in the industry in the next three to five years?

As I think about where HIMSS Analytics is going to be, we’re experiencing strong growth right now. We can expect to continue that. We expect a lot of our growth to happen on the customized consulting side. 

Everyone had a blueprint for what they needed to do previously. They needed to go out and buy an EMR. Now their question is, what’s next? We see a lot of folks coming to us and asking, where’s this market going and how do we succeed in it and make our clients happy?

We see providers saying, all right, we have all this data, what technology should we go after next to achieve the most benefit from that data and this information that we have? We see huge growth coming from our consulting organization as we help both sides make better, more informed strategic decisions.

From the industry side, we launched the Total Revenue Management Model. We launched the Continuity of Care Model. That is an indication of where we see the industry going. As we start to shift towards a more accountable care world, what technologies are going to be needed to care for that patient beyond the walls of your facility, beyond the walls of your organization, in the patient’s home, in a non-affiliated practice? What are the value propositions and the revenue implications, the bottom line implications, of doing that? 

We structured these two models — along with the DELTA-Powered Analytics Assessment, which is a way to understand an organization’s capabilities in terms of using data as information — to help guide the industry in those next three to five years because it’s a bit of an unknown. We’ve seen some very successful organizations achieving significantly improved outcomes and cost realizations from using analytics and capturing information outside of the organization, but those are rare. Those are not the norm right now. That’s the trend we see happening.

Some of your readers have had thoughts about it. Dr. Wellbeing brought up a point that the technology’s great, but it’s ahead of the payment paradigm right now. That’s certainly true in some instances, but we see that trend beginning to shift and organizations beginning to understand the value of leveraging as much information as they can to improve patient care and achieve cost-benefit realizations.

 

Any final thoughts?

I’ve been in this game for 15 years or so. We’re at a really exciting time. I think both of us remember the time when very few people had EMRs and no one quite knew what to do with them. We’ve moved into this place where virtually all have and a significant portion are using them in a very capable way. 

Now that we have them in place, we can truly use the information that’s coming out of them to improve care, reduce cost, and start to achieve the vision that everyone had when we laid out the notion of healthcare IT.

We have a long way to go, but it’s a pretty exciting time. I’m thrilled to be part of an organization that can help bring some clarity to a market that may be a little bit cloudy at the moment.

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