Leading up to the HIMSS21 event in Las Vegas, speculation was rampant among healthcare technology leaders. After the last-minute cancellation of HIMSS20, would the event actually occur? Would people attend? Is a COVID outbreak among attendees inevitable? 

Our team sent seven representatives who weighed in to answer these questions and compile learnings from the event—and with diminished attendance (approximately half that of previous years), the opportunities to learn and engage were ample and focused.  Throughout our discussions at the event, we heard repeatedly that lower attendance—while unfortunate—tended to yield higher quality conversations and the ability to get valuable face time with partners, prospects, vendors, and thought leaders. In short,  fewer attendees meant less “noise” and more meaningful interaction.

Key Themes 

The Verinovum team observed the following topics and trends throughout the conference, starting, not surprisingly, with:  

  1. COVID-19: While COVID certainly played a role in the event’s attendance and exhibition itself, it also permeated the schedule.  The pandemic has changed the way healthcare uses technology and exemplified digital transformation, and that was evident throughout the conference. Leveraging EHRs in new ways, embracing telehealth, and finding ways to capture and use new forms of patient data seemed to be mentioned in–if not the focus of–most educational sessions. 
  2. Overwhelmed by data: The CTO of an organization focused on physician workflow tools reported that they have tons of clinical data but that they don’t trust its usability and that they struggle to organize it in a way that makes the data useful. The  theme of disjointed data permeated the rest of the conference and manifested itself in several session titles including:  
    • Improving Healthcare Outcomes by Enhancing Data Quality
    • Untangling the Thread: Bringing Actionable Data to the Clinical Team  
    • Real-Time Aggregation and Distribution of Healthcare Data from Multiple-Decentralized Sources
    • Using High-Octane Patient Data to Fuel Better Care  
  1. Mental health and SDoH: Multiple sessions and conversations revolved around looking beyond the typical “red flags” of health (high blood pressure, diabetes, CHF, high cholesterol) and incorporating mental health and social determinants of health into building a complete patient picture. The Verinovum team spoke with multiple consulting firms that validated the shift toward incorporating as much information as possible into a longitudinal member/patient record.  
  2. Payers’ role in health management: While there was certainly the expected provider presence at the event, the Verinovum team observed an increased presence of payers, along with payers’ interest in leveraging clinical data to impact health and drive better outcomes. The Verinovum team spoke with the CTO of a major health plan who noted that their organization was  “not good at clinical data cleansing, and it’s something we absolutely need.” The prevalence of payers’ focus on leveraging data  for better outcomes was also validated through popular education sessions: 
    • Payer Perspective: Achieving success in the evolving interoperability landscape  
    • Person Matching for Interoperability: A Case Study for Payers  
  1. Artificial intelligence (AI) & predictive analytics: A large number of sessions focused on the use of AI and predictive analytics. Payers, providers, medical device companies, life sciences and more can find use cases for predictive analytics to streamline operations, identify business threats, and contain costs.  
  2. ONC Cures Act Final Rule: There’s never any shortage of legislation changes and evolving concerns around patient information, and this was evident. Keeping a pulse on evolving changes around the usage of healthcare data will undoubtedly continue to be an area of focus in the industry. 
  3. The pros and cons of FHIR: While FHIR in and of itself was a hot topic throughout the conference, conversations revolved heavily around the idea that FHIR cannot fix data quality. Notable session titles around FHIR included:
    • Integrating a Fully Realized FHIR-Based Representation of the World
    • The Role of HL7® FHIR® in Patient Cost Transparency  
    • The Evolution of Clinical Data Exchange Using HL7® FHIR®  
    • Improving Clinical Data Exchange and Notifications with HL7® FHIR®  
    • Igniting Interoperability with the HL7® FHIR® Accelerators  
  1. The state of digital transformation: Aside from telehealth adoption (which has been obviously accelerated due to the  COVID-19 pandemic), the adoption of HIT solutions is stagnating across the industry. Whether it’s due to budgetary constraints or a reluctance to embrace new technologies due to the headaches IT solutions have presented to the industry in previous years, the industry is struggling to keep up with healthcare consumers and their demand for new, convenient technologies.  

While the event in Las Vegas is now behind us, HIMSS continues to add content to the digital portion of the event, with on-demand sessions available for 45 days after the conclusion of the live event. There’s something for everyone in the lineup of content—a mix of healthcare luminaries (Michael Dowling, CEO of Northwell Health, for example) and appealing celebrities (such as Patrick Dempsey of Grey’s Anatomy). Check out the full digital experience here.