A Look Back at HIMSS 2019: From Interoperable Systems to Interoperable Experiences

By Caitlin Morrison, Senior Strategist

A few weeks ago Omari Miller, Senior Business Development Director, and I attended HIMSS 2019 to explore the latest healthcare technology developments and find answers to our questions on digital innovation trends in the healthcare sector.

While at HIMSS, we learned about the current state of interoperability in healthcare, a primary theme of the conference. The healthcare industry defines interoperability as the ability for information systems, applications or devices to coordinate across organizations so that stakeholders can cooperatively use data. On the exhibition floor there were nine showcases each highlighting trends.  One of the most relevant to design was the interoperability showcase. At the showcase multiple organizations had come together and designed 25 minute demonstrations that they presented throughout the day. The demonstrations consisted of use cases that walked the viewers through scenarios of patient experiences in a hypothetical interoperable systems. The use cases covered topics like the opioid epidemic, price transparency, maternal and child health, telemedicine, chronic care, and population health. Presenters focused on the importance of a seamless patient experience, one that is achievable by making sure the tech stack all works in unison. The mantra was the same; healthcare is an industry on the precipice of disruption, so companies cannot afford to delay investing in interoperability.

Companies showcased their commitment to investing in technological interoperability, which they correctly view as a necessary step to paving the way for the future patient experience. However, investing in the technological infrastructure alone is insufficient to create and deliver a coordinated patient-centered experience across settings. Companies must push the definition of interoperability to extend beyond system capabilities; they need to design a human-centered experience for data, relationships, and experiences.

In order to break-away and become leaders in a consumer-led healthcare ecosystem, organizations need to take action on the following three things:

  1. Create a human-centered data management strategy. The idea of interoperability goes beyond simply making sure that the infrastructure exists for data to be shared seamlessly. The data must be clean, relevant, and structured in order to be valuable. It needs to be usable by staff on the front line and relevant to their work. From billing specialists to pharmacy technicians to staff at community organizations (like the YMCA), the interoperable system needs to provide meaningful information in a secure manner. To do this companies need to understand who users are throughout the patient journey and what they need. Companies need to confirm the purpose and functionality of the data they are collecting and sharing and adopt a human-centered design approach to make sure their investment in interoperability will add maximum value.
  2. Work with patients and providers. Many companies are focusing on how a digital experience can add value in an patient’s life. However, it is equally important to think about how a digital patient experience will add value to the provider experience. Providers experiencing burnout have patients with worse health outcomes. So as we continue to introduce disruptive technologies for the sake of patients, we need to make sure that it doesn’t negatively impact the experience of providers and care teams. Every investment in digital transformation has to improve and account for the experience for both patients and providers. For example, if a healthcare organization plans to provide wearables to all of their patients at high risk for cardiac events, what does that mean for the care teams? What types of notifications will they receive? How will they field the calls and concerns about the devices? How will the educational support for the wearables be integrated into daily workflows? How will this implementation ultimately add value to the patient and provider experience? Working with both groups to design the experience will ensure cost effective innovation and that no time is wasted on implementing meaningless or hard-to-use technology.
  3. Design for an interoperable experience in the rise of healthcare consumerism. Healthcare organizations need to ask themselves: What other healthcare industry organizations plan to connect with our patients? What other non-healthcare industry organizations will be contributing to our patient’s wellness? What role does wellness play in our patient’s everyday life?” They may even start asking themselves: “How does a digital patient experience interact or not interact with social media?” Consumer expectations for digital experiences have escalated. We see this with the rise of healthcare consumerism. Instead of forming retrospective alliances, organizations must take a proactive approach to partnerships. This means they must create valuable cross-sectoral relationships. They need to design for trust and create protocols for warm hand offs. Well-designed and well-structured partnerships will be able to create the kind of comprehensive digital wellness ecosystems that align with modern consumer expectations, and whoever gets there first will dominate the market. Partnerships will play the key competitive edge as digital patient experiences continue to advance.

Interoperability is coming. Soon the healthcare industry will be able to share information across traditionally siloed entities, but having the infrastructure is only part of the journey. In order to provide patients with a digital experience that is effective and meaningful, companies need to design for a human-centered experience across the entirety of the healthcare ecosystem.

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