The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Global Health Conference & Exhibition, held from March 14 – 18, hosted over 29,000 attendees this year in Orlando, Florida. Spanning across one of the largest exhibit halls in the United States, over 1,000 exhibitors showcased the latest and greatest in health care technology and innovation. If the vast exhibit hall wasn’t impressive enough, the conference also held more than 300 general education sessions for its attendees. As a first time HIMSS participant, I was in awe of the breadth of expertise, shared passions, and learning opportunities that the conference offered. While all of the sessions I attended were informative, there were a few key themes that were repeatedly touched on by presenters.
Key HIMSS22 Theme: Health Equity
Health equity has been reported on by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) since 1984 and has quickly become a higher priority for the federal government and health care entities alike. Stratified health data throughout the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the depth of health disparities and has shown just how far the U.S. still has to go to reach health equity. HIMSS22 presenters emphasized how understanding comorbidities and social determinants of health will play a critical role in ensuring health equity in communities. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) expressed the need to develop policies with a stronger focus on those that will be impacted by them. Empowering patients and working with leaders to be intentional about promoting data within public health are just a few of the goals CMS has on their forefront.
Key HIMSS22 Theme: Health Care Data Modernization
The main message from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at HIMSS was the importance of collecting health data efficiently and transparently. As CDC stated in one of their educational sessions, the ultimate goal of health care data modernization is to move to adaptable, resilient systems that address problems before they happen. In order to meet CDC’s interoperability goals, systems need to be consistently connected and information blocking needs to be turned into information sharing. New health data collection will need to expand beyond minimum datasets. As a result of COVID-19 lessons learned, CDC noted that ~50% of Fiscal Year 2022 funding will be infused into the data modernization space and momentum toward cloud migration will be required both internally and with external contractors. Ideally, progress in data modernization will decrease burden on public health care workers and create more efficient awareness around emerging threats.
Key HIMSS22 Theme: Interoperability
Another consistent message from CMS, CDC, and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) was how critical information integration and access is in improving data systems and health care. The role health data usage plays in communities across the nation was further highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. CMS hopes to use health care data interoperability to enhance policy development and provide implementation support. Over time, this will ideally combat reoccurring issues in public health and encourage cross-disciplinary and cross-resource data sharing. One health care data interoperability standard that was continuously touched on was Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR®). Providers across the nation are quickly getting FHIR® based apps to enhance their electronic exchange of health care information. Improving technology will always be an ongoing priority, but CMS emphasized how the data is used is equally, if not more, important. The interoperability journey will be a continuous one with no end point as technology continues to evolve.
The Future of Health Care According to HIMSS22
The key discussions around health equity, data modernization, and interoperability at HIMSS tell us what is paramount to improving health and wellness across the U.S. and that these initiatives will be of focus for our government partners. At RTI International, we are dedicated to helping our clients create a health system that achieves equitable outcomes through technology and innovation, and high quality, affordable, and person-centered care.