The HIMSS 2018 conference recently wrapped up and as usual, it was educational and filled with announcements about a range of health IT initiatives and emerging technology solutions. With over 45,000 professionals in attendance and 300 plus distinct educational sessions, the theme “Where the World Connects for Health,” could not have been more fitting.During the conference, First Line Software representatives spent time walking the exhibit floors to get a sense of the general state of the health IT market and where it’s headed.

Here are a few of the highlights from this conference:

Patients First

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the launch of their MyHealthEData initiative to ensure that patients are empowered to control their healthcare data from the device or application of their choice – while keeping it secure.

Major EHR vendors are starting to expand patient access to medical records, and expressed solid commitments to adopting interoperability standards such as FHIR.

Data-driven patient engagement and patient satisfaction were key topics at the HIMSS conference. These topics revolve around the inclusion of patient surveys and patient-reported outcomes into medical records and as drivers to improve care and reduce costs.

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Run for the cloud

In his keynote address Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO, appealed to the event attendees to let go of their conservative operational processes and make a run to the cloud. The premise is that cloud-based hosting and solutions offered by Google and other key players in the industry are more secure than traditional data centers and offer tremendous benefits in the form of reduced costs, improved operational efficiencies, and business intelligence. He said: “We now have — much safer than your data center, much more compliant than your data center and much easier to use — cloud-based servers within our industry.”

Disruptive innovation from non-traditional players

Amazon, Apple and Lyft are all making a solid entrance into healthcare. Uber and Lyft are both promoting non-emergency transportation offerings as an alternative to ambulances and providing greater flexibility in transportation options for home-bound patients.

In an effort to improve the efficiency of how health care is delivered and to manage costs, employers who are teaming up with providers and structuring new partnerships. Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase announced they would be forming an independent health care company for their employees.

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Focus on Machine Learning, Process Automation and AI

IBM Watson Health was generating major buzz at the conference as they demonstrated success in automated patient matching and enrollment for clinical trials along with improved diagnostic services and intelligent communications between patient and providers. 

Almost all of the major EHR vendors announced planned integration of AI into upcoming releases in the form of virtual assistants, automated care plans, advanced decision support, and the detection of workflow patterns.

It is easy to see how robotics and process automation technologies could eliminate manual labor by performing certain functions currently completed by health care staff.

Blockchain was one of the most frequently discussed technologies even though the practical applications are still at a very early stage. While blockchain could provide a more secure, redundant technical infrastructure, the use of AI could improve both operating efficiency and care delivery. What we saw at HIMSS 2018 excited us about the solutions in these areas which will be available in the future.

In conclusion - it is fascinating to observe the major transformation taking place in Healthcare and spearheaded by advancements in technology. We at First Line Software are committed to being part of this transformation and applying our expertise and technical resources toward improving patient care.

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David Tedford