HIMSS, Innovation, and the Infomercial
By David Lareau
David Lareau is CEO of Medicomp Systems of Chantilly, VA.
Nothing compares to the annual HIMSS conference in terms of providing educational and networking opportunities for health IT professionals. The recent event in Orlando included 300+ educational sessions, dozens of receptions and parties, and multiple days for scheduled and impromptu meet-ups with other attendees.
And then there is the Exhibit Hall. Perhaps I am jaded from my many years in the industry, but I can’t help but feel that the exhibition portion of HIMSS is a bit like a three day-long infomercial, with vendors pitching solutions to problems that many don’t realize they have (the Wearable Towel, anyone?), or for products that sound too good to be true (can you really say goodbye to flab with the ThighMaster?)
Interestingly, many of the “solutions” I saw at HIMSS were designed to fix problems that were created by other “solutions.”
Case in point: EHRs. The inefficiencies and deficiencies of EHRs are well documented. We’ve all seen the surveys about how frustrated doctors are with EHRs, which add to administrative burdens and contribute to physician burnout. Of course, EHRs have long been touted to be time-saving tools that improve patient care and allow physicians to go home earlier. The reality, however, is that few EHR implementations have lived up to all the hype.
But wait, there’s more
Full disclosure: my company was one of the 1,300 exhibitors at HIMSS this year serving up our own brand of infomercial, though I’d like to think we fall more in the Roomba category (innovative and useful) than Chia Pet (just why, people?)
We conducted a non-scientific survey in our booth to better understand providers’ biggest EHR challenges. When asked “Which health IT challenge are you most surprised is still an issue for the industry?” our 361 participants (all of whom were given a chance to win a prize) indicated the following:
- Lack of interoperability between EHRs and between providers: 36.1 percent
- Clinician dissatisfaction with EHRs: 27.7 percent
- Difficulties using data to improve clinical and financial outcomes: 22.6 percent
- Lack of innovation compared to other industry sectors: 13.5 percent
What these results tell me is that despite years of hype, EHRs still need fixing on multiple fronts in order to meet the needs of users and advance clinical and financial incomes.
Providers have spent billions over the last couple of decades implementing EHRs that have failed to adequately deliver the efficiencies that clinicians require. Even if health systems and physicians could take advantage of money-back guarantees, few could afford the time, disruption, and additional investment required to rip out legacy systems and implement new solutions.
What are frustrated providers to do?
Not available in stores (but perhaps as seen on the HIMSS exhibit floor)
Despite the industry’s failure to realize the promise of EHRs, at HIMSS this year I saw increased interest from providers looking to improve the usability of their existing EHRs. More vendors are offering app-based solutions that extend the value of EHRs without the disruption of implementing a brand, new platform.
Some of these technologies are designed to fix inefficient workflows that diminish physician productivity. Others focus on organizing existing data so that clinicians can easily access the right data at the right time for the right patient – even if that data is coming from an outside system. Additional offerings enable more complete and accurate documentation to facilitate quality care, correct reporting, and better clinical and financial outcomes.
You can do it
I am encouraged that despite the plethora of pitchmen hawking products almost as seemingly frivolous as the Snuggie, I saw more signs of innovation at HIMSS19, especially for solutions that consider the needs and desires of clinicians and support better outcomes for patients.
The HIMSS Exhibit Hall may indeed be reminiscent of a marathon infomercial, but consider this: without infomercials, millions might never have enriched their lives with George Foreman Grills, P90X workouts, or the ShamWow.