Digital Is the New Analog – Observations From HIMSS 2022

  • April 13, 2022
Two empty chairs at HIMSS 2022

In March, I traveled to sunny Orlando to attend the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Global Health Conference and Exhibition. It’s a can’t-miss event that has evolved into a massive industry networking event that enables companies to maintain an active dialogue with clients, partners and competitors. Over the course of the week, it was clear that digital modernization is top-of-mind for professionals throughout the global health ecosystem, with sessions discussing everything from improved analytics tools to remote patient monitoring to virtual health experiences. Against this backdrop of accelerating digital modernization in healthcare, I distilled three key takeaways.

1. In-person makes a comeback. HIMSS is quickly returning to its pre-pandemic attendance highs of 40,000+ people in 2019 and 2020 before the event was canceled. As I understand it, roughly 10,000 attendees braved the searing mid-August desert heat in Las Vegas, while more than 24,000 traveled to Florida in March. I spotted many familiar faces in Orlando. I was pleased to see a large turnout from several military health agencies and other public health agencies.

Since many events moved to virtual platforms to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic, HIMSS also simultaneously hosted a digital event series with unique content complimentary to the event hosted in Orlando. I commend HIMSS for adopting a hybrid conference model, allowing for individuals who may not yet be comfortable traveling due to COVID-19 concerns to participate in the conversation remotely.

2. Products, products, products. The health market has always been a target-rich environment for products, but it seemed like the HIMSS exhibit floor exploded with products this year. Many service firms are increasingly dipping a toe into the product waters, blurring the lines between product and services companies. Many of the products (and their related programs) focus on remote patient monitoring of a condition post-discharge and remote diagnosis to avoid costly trips to the provider. One session at HIMSS provided an overview of a program where the patient is sent home wearing a medical-grade heart and respiration monitor, which a home health nurse then monitors for changes requiring physician intervention. Healthcare professionals are hopeful that the program will reduce hospital readmissions and emergency room visits. Early results look promising.

The pandemic accelerated the adoption of telehealth within the medical community, creating many benefits for patients and providers. Traditionally, telemedicine allows for consultation but lacks diagnostic tools. HIMSS showcased innovative IoT devices that enable the doctor to examine the patient’s ears, nose and throat, inspect the skin and observe changes in heart rate and respiration during the remote session. These IoT tools enable medical providers to discharge patients by equipping them with a set of diagnostic telehealth tools. Patient care is accessible, immediate and convenient.

3. Expanding beyond traditional roles. In the various sessions at HIMSS and my conversations with colleagues, it was clear that many companies are trying to expand beyond their traditional roles. The lines between management consultancies and systems integrators are blurring, and seemingly everyone is testing product development.

I sense that this expansion is primarily driven by limited growth across the Federal Health (and Federal) market. We’re likely a year away from the certainty that a federal budget provides, depending on mid-term election results and the subsequent ability to pass legislation next January. As a result, net new acquisitions, particularly for unrestricted awards, continue to be few and far between. The competition for existing work is intensifying. As I saw at HIMSS, companies are developing new capabilities and moving into adjacent and net new market segments.

HIMSS provides commercial and federal IT executives the chance to connect with IT services companies to get the information and solutions they need to reimagine health and wellness. There has been a shift to providing digital services in hosting events and providing care remotely. Many firms are capitalizing on this trend by expanding into spaces where they have not traditionally done business.

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Douglas Kelly

Douglas Kelly is the Vice President, Federal Health and Civilian Sales at NTT DATA. He has more than two decades of management consulting and IT experience in the public and private sectors. For the past 18 years, he has been engaged in the federal market through a series of client-facing roles at Booz Allen Hamilton, KPMG, CSRA (formerly CSC), Accenture and now NTT DATA. Before joining industry, Doug served in the Peace Corps, coached basketball and worked for a dotcom in China.

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