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A Big Bold Statement

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HIMSS19 was remarkable, but not for the reasons you might think.

When 43 thousand healthcare IT professionals gather in one place at the same time, a new product or topic is bound to make headlines. HealthcareDive says it was interoperability, consumer-centric healthcare, cybersecurity, and some interesting but not exactly revolutionary efforts in the areas of artificial intelligence, blockchain, and data management. Interesting subjects to be sure, but not exactly the momentous, attention-grabbing, eye-popping, hold the presses news we might have expected. But look a little deeper….

For us, the big industry news was a little more subtle, but no less far-reaching.

Vendors are finally seeing the bigger picture. The EHR behemoths Epic, Cerner, and AllScripts and major hardware and software manufacturers like Cisco, Microsoft, and HP Enterprise have somewhat abandoned their “we’ve got the biggest, the best, the fastest, or the cheapest box on the planet” approaches. They seem to be focused on solving specific industry challenges, and not just re-purposing their products and brands for healthcare.

“They’ve gone from selling boxes to selling solutions instead,” says VertitechIT CIO Terry Grogan. She’s been attending the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference since 2009. “Even vendors that actually sell boxes are trying to figure out how to sell solutions and how they fit in.”

VertitechIT Executive Vice President Mike Machulsky agrees. “Look at the Cisco booth this year. It was geared around 2 personas; the clinician and patient experience. Here’s a technology company that’s historically been known for routers, switches, and servers, pivoting to become more software and subscription oriented. And they’re doing it with a whole story themed around walking you through a specific set of experiences focused on that end-user experience.”

And Grogan says they’re taking it a step further by inviting critical partners into their booths to paint a more complete start-to-finish solution. “IT professionals are a lot more discerning now. We realize that solving a problem is not always a one-box answer.” Grogan says, “we’re asking what it will take to make it happen and how will other complementary products provide a more complete result.  What vendors are doing now is having these partners right there in their booth, showing integration with other products. I’ve never seen that to this level before now.”

In short, vendors don’t seem to be hiding things behind curtains and mirrors anymore. They’re more open around what it takes to do what they’re suggesting, and how it all ties to workflows, clinical outcomes, and patient experience.

It’s a mantra being championed by HIMSS as an organization as well. The focus is on standards and adoption models. HIMSS Analytics has shed its database offering (selling it to Definitive Healthcare) and doubled down on the mission to see that hospitals as a whole, operate more efficiently. According to Machulsky, the message to the healthcare industry is clear. “HIMSS is saying, give us your baseline data and we’ll help you understand where you’re at in terms of infrastructure or EMR maturity, and then we’ll help you improve. If we do that collectively, it’s inevitable that the cost of care should go down, the quality should go up, patient and clinician experience should improve, and we’ll be better off as an industry.”

Healthcare now registers at 18% of our country’s gross domestic product. New approaches on display at HIMMS19 should assure that number will increase, making for even more dramatic headlines in the years to come.

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