When last we spoke with Brian Ahier – digital health evangelist at Medicity, the HIE subsidiary of Aetna's Healthagen business and all-around man-about-town in the healthcare IT industry – he was very excited about HIMSS16 in Las Vegas. He was especially amped about the ability of big data and analytics technology to turbocharge population health management efforts.
This year, Ahier is just as excited about the value of data ("the currency of the next century," he calls it) and energized by the challenge of combining siloed data sources – not just clinical and claims, but administrative, supply chain and others.
He's also predicting big things for machine learning and artificial intelligence, which he thinks could soon reach a "tipping point" for healthcare, as well as fast-emerging tech such as blockchain – still little used but poised for more widespread deployment across healthcare this year as its interoperability and security value becomes apparent.
Ahier, whose Twitter followers (@ahier) number more than 40,000, told us recently what he's hoping to see at the 2017 HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition in Orlando, Feb. 19 to 23.
Q: What are you most looking forward to at HIMSS17?
A: I am most looking forward to seeing all of my friends and colleagues. The HIMSS community is awesome and despite often being in friendly competition for market share throughout the year, there is a great sense of collaboration woven all through the conference. And then there are the various subgroups where I am blessed to be a part of, I call these our tribes. These are the folks that are more like family than simply friends or coworkers. I can honestly say "I love my peeps!"
Q: What issues are top-of-mind for your social media followers?
A: I think the overriding concern at a high level is moving into a value based, technology enable, and patient centered health system that cares for humans not just when they are sick or in a crisis but rather throughout their life with a focus on wellness encompassing all the social determinants of health. Technology geeks can be an impatient lot with the slow pace of ordinary humans and we are ready to move mountains. Specifically machine learning and AI, plus blockchain technologies for the near term future and solidify the great work done in the realms of secure messaging and FHIR.
Q: Who's your favorite healthcare hero? Why?
A: Some castigate me for this but it is absolutely Don Berwick. His vision and foresight for how healthcare could be and his standing up to the nasty political winds that blow over anyone who takes a stand is admirable. I certainly don't agree with all of his views yet his majestic viewpoint of paying for quality of care and not simply quantity has been a mantra of mine. And he didn't just spout platitudes, he actually worked his damnedest to see it come into being. Love him or hate him you must give him credit for his principled stand.
Q: What's your pet peeve? Either on- or off-line?
A: On line: SPAM! You know who you are ... Quit pitching me with your press release and boldly asking me, or even telling me, that I need to write about your latest cool thing. I'll take the press release and especially enjoy embargoed material so that I have a chance to review and understand what I may be writing about, but getting repeated emails and unsolicited phone calls because I downloaded some whitepaper is no way to garner my influence. I already know what the trends are and if your idea were so cool I would have found about it before you even thought of a press release.
Off line: Do not ever, ever ask me why. I know what I am doing, believe me.
Q: What is something your social media followers do not know about you?
A: I was on tour with the Grateful Dead for twelve years. What a long strange trip it's been...
This article is part of our ongoing coverage of HIMSS17. Visit Destination HIMSS17 for previews, reporting live from the show floor and after the conference.