Heading to Las Vegas, Nevada the week of August 9th, I wasn’t entirely sure what 2021’s edition of HIMSS was going to look like. After all, we are still dealing with a global pandemic and emerging COVID-19 variants meant a return to “normal” conference, was still a bit beyond grasp.
To no one’s surprise, masks, social distancing, and safety took center stage at the event. This was vastly different from the packed learning sessions and often the shoulder-to-shoulder exhibit hall experience we have grown accustomed to. With all of this in mind, HIMSS adjusted put on a show and delivered an unforgettable face-to-face (albeit masked) conference experience.
Attending for the first time as a member of Interlace Health, I entered HIMSS21 looking to understand the trends and buzz around patient engagement, the healthcare consumer experience, and the evolution of telehealth and care delivery. Below are a few key takeaways from my experience at HIMSS21.
Digital Strategy is on Its Way Out
In 2021, more and more healthcare organizations are understanding that ‘digital strategy’ is an empty phrase. Rather, digital tools are now understood to be essential parts of modern healthcare delivery and patient engagement strategies. HIMSS21 exhibitors often played into this emerging understanding by dropping ‘digital strategy’ and focusing on where their products and solutions fit into provider space and the care continuum.
I’m pressed to remember if I saw any exhibitor or presenting vendor even utter the phrase ‘digital strategy’ during my time in Las Vegas. The absence of that overused phrase represents growth and movement away from trying to paste digital solutions over every crack or blemish, and shift focus to using the right tools to solve specific problems and challenges
Patient Intake is Still Finding Its Place
Patient intake has a bit of an identity crisis. At HIMSS21, patient intake vendors were spread far and wide across the exhibit halls. Their solutions were marketed both on the main show floors and in the consumerism, innovation/start-up, and interoperability showcase exhibit halls. Some lived as standalone solutions, while others were heavily tied into revenue cycle solutions. While not a surprise, the spread of vendors across many environments continues to press the question of: “where does patient intake live within the hospital and as part of the patient’s care journey?” Each vendor certainly had their own take on the topic, while also sharing in many of the same themes and buzzwords.
HIMSS21 continued to ask the question if digital patient intake is about access, engagement, consumerism, or something altogether different. The answer is likely to be a blend of a little bit of each of those as we try and steer the digital front door away from being a buzzword and into something that defines new ways for patients to engage with providers. Exhibitors quickly dialed in on the importance of creating digital experiences synchronized with the in-person experience of visiting a care provider. They also emphasized the importance of new intake workflows that have the ability to capture and maximize revenue from patients and health plans, a balancing act that even modern retailers can struggle with as they connect the online and brick-and-mortar shopping experience.
One of the biggest challenges in the patient intake space is the number of noise providers must decipher in order to find the right partner and solution. While every vendor had their own voice, the overlapping buzz words can make navigating a packed market space difficult. The most important question to help providers sort through the stack is around a vendor’s experience, especially when it comes to managing a hospital or health system’s unique intake workflows.
Telehealth is Still Everywhere – but Recognizes the Need to Evolve
We all know how telehealth use exploded during the pandemic, and how use has already started to retract as we move through 2021. Telehealth exhibitors at HIMSS21 clearly recognized this shift and have begun to set their eyes on the future of telehealth integration into healthcare and the prospects of more advanced home health solutions. The result will pave the way for new care pathways that fuse together virtual consultations and triaging, tighter integration between virtual and in-person care, and a push to keep patients in the comforts of their homes, rather than hospital beds.
The exhibitors I spoke with were excited about telehealth becoming part of care delivery rather than a separate care option. But, this shift also raised new challenges to be solved in moving patients seamlessly between third-party telehealth services and brick-and-mortar care providers without confusing or losing patients, or putting the security of their personal and health data at risk. I am encouraged by how the vendors were eager to tackle these issues, as well as their frank recognition of what sort of partners and knowledge they need to create these connections. It was exciting to visualize the role Interlace Health will play in the future of patient intake, as our solutions help sync workflows and capture and protect patient information during the registration process and throughout the entire patient journey.
The combination of COVID-19 disruption and longer-term industry trends has left the healthcare technology industry in a prime spot for unprecedented growth. At our first conference back since the pandemic started, we noticed many of the themes from HIMSS21 supported this notion.
As we close the HIMSS21 chapter, one filled with safely conducted face-to-face meetings, constructive discussions, and these takeaways in mind, the Interlace Health team has a motivated outlook on the rest of 2021 and we are excited to see the evolving (and vital) role technology will continue to play in the future of healthcare.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Christopher Link, Research and Insights Manager at Interlace Health, brings ten years of market research and analysis work within the healthcare market to his role. For the last five years, Christopher has focused on addressing market and strategic challenges for payer, provider, and healthcare IT vendor leaders. He believes that sound insights and intelligence are essential for effective decision-making and long-term success; and, asking “stupid questions” often leads to brilliant solutions. Christopher currently resides in Nashville, TN with his fiancée and their puppy.