Consumerism will force healthcare's hand on interoperability, Forrester finds at HIMSS19

By Mike Miliard
03:36 PM
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The research firm's big takeaway from Orlando this past month: Newly empowered patients and the proliferation of data they bring will boost the business case for exchange – and have "cascading effects" for cloud, AI and more.

Forrester Research has published a report summing up its impressions from the HIMSS19 Global Conference & Exhibition. Experts said they came away from the show convinced that big momentum is building behind interoperability, and it's not coming from the places one might expect.

Health systems will need to do better with the management and sharing of more data than ever if they hope to stay competitive in a value-based care landscape where patients have more choice than ever about where they get their care, according to the study.

WHY IT MATTERS
As interoperability continues to gain steam, it's set to boost the profiles of an array of other key technologies, said Forrester researchers. At HIMSS19, it was clear that tools "supporting data management and interoperability, including cloud and AI, showcased their ability to add value and hit on the quadruple aim: improving the customer experience, driving better outcomes, lowering costs, and supporting the whole care team," they said.

Meanwhile the report noted another salient point from this year's show: While health systems have been "discussing shifting consumer expectations and the evolving landscape for a long time," researchers said, "this is the year they’re finally taking action. Consumers have more options, and healthcare organizations must incorporate the right solutions and partners to empower patients and remain relevant in the face of new entrants."

Indeed, HIMSS19 "highlighted how the influx of available data and evolved consumer expectations are driving healthcare into the future," they said.

With the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT setting the tone for the week by publishing long-awaited proposed rules on information blocking, it seemed clear in Orlando that we could be entering a new era where the rubber hits the road for more widespread data exchange.

"Interoperability and its cascading effects are hot. sessions and conversations across the exhibit floor were buzzing with talk of the implications of CMS’s new rules," according to the new report.

That said, Forester noticed that while many of the use cases on display at HIMSS' longstanding Interoperability Showcase focused specifically on customer-enablement, it also saw that discussion about ways to "enable health systems, plans and other firms to receive data" was not as widespread as might be hoped.

THE LARGER TREND
Healthcare IT News' full HIMSS19 coverage can be found here. As HIMSS CEO Hal Wolf has said, the global conference played host to an "incredible exchange of ideas" pointing toward dramatic changes in healthcare and the larger health ecosystem.

That especially goes for the challenge of interoperability, an imperative that affects nearly every facet of the healthcare delivery system. In this video: Christel Anderson, senior director of interoperability initiatives at HIMSS, explains how the goals and motivating factors have evolved for data exchange, as critical factors such as patient engagement and social determinants of health change the equation:

ON THE RECORD
The main takeaway from Forrester's report was that HIMSS19 showed progress on long-sought-after interoperability, as more and more stakeholders come around once and for all to recognize the "mutual value in sharing data to pursue improved care coordination."

And as the data exchange landscape evolves, other technologies are evolving right along with it: "With the impending increase in data promised by interoperability, healthcare organizations must determine where they can offload infrastructure and leverage cloud capabilities," said Forrester researchers.

"AI is more natural and embedded than ever before," they explained. "The days of 'check out this new, flashy technology' are gone. AI has found a place as an invisible, accepted component that automates tedious tasks and delivers valuable insights."

Meanwhile, electronic health record vendors "are embracing partnerships rather than building out their own capabilities," according to the study. "Vendors are tackling tangible problems in a way that feels natural and that healthcare organizations are coming to expect – a sign that advanced AI is maturing."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.