The good and beleaguered folks from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) threw their annual party in Las Vegas with less than half of the usual pre-COVID crowd in attendance. But while the crowds were small and many of the major vendors were absent from the exhibition floor, HIMSS put the spotlight on two of the more pressing issues facing the industry today; Digital Transformation and Cybersecurity.
Mike Machulsky, Executive Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for our parent company Pixel Health, donned his mask and comfortable walking shoes and came away with a distinct perspective.
The digital health revolution is ongoing but legacy organizations are lagging behind. A Chartis Group survey says 52% of healthcare execs say they’re still in the pilot stage of digital integration. But 47% said it was a priority and 80% were planning to increase their investments in digital technology.
MM: “It’s a combination of reasons. Most organizations are still struggling with what you would be struggling with, with or without a pandemic and it’s how do we rationalize, how do we eliminate technical debt. How do we best move forward from our current state to a desired future state of capabilities and services? From a governance model perspective, it’s how do we make sure everybody is heard, how do we make sure underserved areas of the organization have a seat at the table? How do you continue to grow the rapprochement between all key areas: clinical, digital, strategy, operations, marketing/sales and IT? And then it’s always an issue of prioritization, right? There are just an unending array of needs and wants within any organization and you need some strong leaders, the Chief Digital Officer, the Chief Strategy Officer, Chief Information Officer, or the CMO, that can really help set the direction and are good at keeping people on point and aligned to the priorities that are agreed to.”
When will the majority of healthcare organizations finally put a concrete action plan in place?
MM: “Forever more, there’s going to be a need for investing in digital capabilities, but I think if the pandemic has proven anything, you have that hybrid model. You’re still going to be able to deliver care and services on premise, obviously. But what is the right mix of virtual care? What is the right mix of digital front door, digital triage, online scheduling, appointment reminders? How do you take advantage of some of these new capabilities that so many world class providers of technology and technology creators are offering in the market? Again, it comes back down to how do you prioritize it, how do you understand your current state and your desired future state? What are the most important things in your digital work stream? And then once you land on it, how do you execute and roll up your proverbial sleeves and just grind away at it? We’d like to think that our focus at Pixel Health on workflow and process is the best place to start.”
We’re seeing more and more executives from outside the healthcare industry beginning to take leading technology positions within hospitals and health systems. Aaron Martin, who left Amazon to join Providence Health as Chief Digital and Innovations Officer comes to mind. Is this a trend and will it take getting more execs from outside the healthcare space to buy in to improving the consumer experience to truly make a change?
MM: “Yah, Sometimes you could have a little bit of an accelerator, a little bit of a turbocharged booster when you bring some digital natives from other industries that have been there, done that, and could apply it to the healthcare organization they’re working within. Yeah, that’s definitely a sound thing to consider, but I think we’ve also seen that sometimes you can teach an old dog, new tricks. There’s some very sharp leaders within our industry and the ones that survive and thrive will have to be able to scan the market, look outside of the industry, figure out how to take some of those learnings and apply it to their own situation.”
Cybersecurity was another major focus at the conference with HIMSS establishing an area of the exhibition floor called the Cyber Command Center where vendors, almost en masse, recommended companies assess their IT strengths and weaknesses to know how to prepare for the inevitable.
MM: “You have to pretty much assume that sooner or later you’re going to be breached, there will be an incident. And so there’s going to be more of a focus, more of a prioritization placed on not so much trying to defend and have the ultimate veil of armor deployed from a defense perspective, but focusing more so on the fact that we will be breached. How quickly can we react once we’re attacked? How quickly can we contain the incident and the event? How quickly can we isolate it, learn from it, and survive?
I think you’re going to see more and more leaders, Chief Information Security Officer, CIO’s all the way up to the board and the CEO, really taking the approach of we can’t minimize the risk to zero and we’d be foolish to think we can. Bad threat actors will infiltrate our environment. We need to be investing and figuring out how quickly can we react, isolate, and survive. I think we’re going to see a whole new set of models and scoring on an organization’s capability to survive a given event based on the level of severity. That’s going to be the new normal.”
We seem to be getting used to a lot of the “new normal” these days. The annual HIMSS Conference is an invaluable resource for the Healthcare IT industry. Here’s hoping for a return to the “old normal” come March of 2022 in Orlando.