Podcast Ep 41: HIMSS23 Key Takeaways and Highlights

by | May 10, 2023

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In the third week of April, thousands of healthcare tech professionals descended upon Chicago to attend the 2023 HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition (HIMSS23). In attendance were the biggest tech names, the most dedicated consultants, and even puppies!   

Not everyone can pull themselves away from the demands of work in healthcare for a whole week, so in this episode hosted by Rebekah Duke, we will provide the highlights of the HIMSS23. If you’re as enthusiastic about healthcare IT as we are and want to know what this year’s conference centered on, you won’t want to miss this episode!  

We sent three of our very own pros to the conference: Angie Howard, vice president of practice solutions, Michael Justice, executive consultant, and James Worsham, director of sales.   

We were so eager for their updates and are excited to share them with our audience. In this discussion we cover:  

  • What was the scene overall?  
  • What does the conference tell us about the current state of the healthcare market?  
  • What factors do we, as healthcare consultants, use to determine the value of technology tools for our clients?  
  • What trends have been confirmed by the conference and what do we recommend medical practices do to respond to these notable shifts in the industry?  
  • What can be said about fatigue-reducing automations such as ChatGPT and RPA?  
  • How can technology solutions help mid-market healthcare organizations cope with the competition?  
  • How can technology solutions help medical practices improve the patient experience in response to the rise of healthcare consumerism where convenience is king?  
  • And finally, did someone say puppies? 

Settle in and learn all about it! If you have any questions about anything in our content, send a message to info@medicaladvantage.com. 

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Full Episode Transcript

Medical Advantage Podcast: Welcome to the Medical Advantage Podcast, where you can hear healthcare professionals, expert consultants, and industry thought leaders discuss the exciting new ideas and technologies that are changing the business of healthcare. Tune in to each episode as we hear from some of the most innovative minds in medicine about the future of healthcare. And how your organization can stay profitable, efficient, and on top of industry best practices.

Rebekah Duke: Hello everyone and welcome back to the Medical Advantage Podcast. I’m Rebekah Duke, your host for this episode, all about the HIMSS Global Health Conference and Exhibition, which recently took place in Chicago. HIMSS, of course, being Healthcare Information and Management System Society that covers the information technology aspect of healthcare.

So with us today is Angie Howard, Vice President of Practice Solutions, Michael Justice, Executive Consultant and James Worsham, Director of Sales. They all went on behalf of Medical Advantage to the HIMSS conference to check in on the world of healthcare technology. So if you didn’t make it for the conference week, but are curious about what the conference was all about this year, then stay put we’re here to fill you in. Welcome everyone to the podcast.

James Worsham: Hey, Rebekah.

Angie Howard: Thank you Rebekah.

Michael Justice: Thanks Rebekah. Thank you.

Rebekah Duke: So let’s start with who was there, what was the turnout as far as technology brands, Michael?

Michael Justice: You know, there were reports, there were a thousand companies exhibiting this year. Some of them were really tiny companies. But all of the major EHRs and practice management systems were represented as well as just a lot of add-on systems to help fill in where the main systems are lacking.

Rebekah Duke: Okay, and I understand you only had so much time in that week, so which did you focus on?

Michael Justice: I focused on a little of both. The bigger systems that we work with day in, day out with clients. We wanted to know what was new, check in with our contacts there, and learn about what the future holds and upcoming upgrades for those systems. But I also looked around at a lot of the smaller companies with add-on products that address specific pain points that our clients are experiencing.

So got some good information there that as we’re working with clients, we can share with them to address specific pain points.

Rebekah Duke: Yes, Michael, it’s all about matching those technology solutions to those pain points, and we will certainly touch on those pain points in a little bit. And this next question is for Angie.

Angie, what were you able to glean from the conference as far as shifts in the healthcare market?

Angie Howard: So Rebekah, as always the market is growing and there’s always a lot of spending in US healthcare. I know we’ve heard a lot about layoffs and healthcare, but those are mostly administrative areas to free up dollars for more clinical roles such as nursing.

There’s always a need and demand for more nurses. As far as consolidation, CVS just completed its acquisition of Oak Street Health, and I think we’ll see more consolidation like this in value-based care like we did with Amazon and One Medical.

Rebekah Duke: Thank you Angie, for that concise summary. So Michael, earlier you were talking about solutions to persistent pain points, so would that be like prior authorization and automations?

Michael Justice: Yeah, exactly. Prior authorization has been a challenge for medical practices for as long as I’ve been in the industry. And that’s too long to even mention. But I think some of the software products that are out there today, Mindshift was one we looked at. Another one that we work with with clients is Rivet.

They’re really helping in that arena, especially for surgical practices. So that they can help with getting very accurate patient estimates and making sure that the procedures are approved prior to them being performed so there’s not any surprises for the patient or the practice. So we looked at a couple of potential solutions there and we’re digging in more with those organizations as a follow up to HIMSS so we know whether or not there are solutions we would suggest to our clients.

Another area that’s always of interest is robotic process automation. And it sounds all, you know, Star Wars, but truthfully it’s just dealing with repetitive tasks and there are a lot of administrative repetitive tasks in healthcare. And we looked at a number of vendors out there that were offering some pretty, pretty amazing solutions that would really help get some of the monotony out of people’s jobs in the practice and make things happen quicker.

Rebekah Duke: Very interesting, Michael. I look forward to seeing how those solutions play out for our clients. So now I’d like to take the time to just do a round robin. General takeaways about the solutions that you’re currently scoping out for our clients. What do you have to share starting with James?

James Worsham: One of the big takeaways that I did see from HIMSS, the bulk of our kind of our wheelhouse client, I’m always concerned from our sales standpoint on all of our various service lines, how our mid-market healthcare providers, which is our kind of our bread and butter, we do work with very small entities all the way up through private equity, as you know and I’m worried about how they’re gonna compete in the 2023 and moving forward landscape of all the mergers and acquisitions, consolidations, specialty alignments that Angie was alluding to earlier.

You know, from a large scale vendors, you know, that are combining all the way through the software providers and the health networks with private equity, it’s really the new reality that our mid-market healthcare providers and entities who we service so well need to stay in a competitive landscape to compete with the money of private equity, the financial backing, and also just the efficiencies of their own practices.

So I really approached HIMSS and was looking for some of those solutions and we found, That it really integrates in very well to all of our service lines. And it should be considered, obviously, practice by practice, but there’s a lot to be taken away to compete with the larger healthcare community and networks with just taking an individual approach to the individual practices, marketing needs creating that digital footprint.

And we do a lot with our service lines with practice marketing. Obviously we focus on a website, SEO, PPC, Reputation Management, which is so important right now. You know, the five star ratings or the one star ratings for providers as entities or practices as a whole. We also focus a lot in our practice marketing service line and directory listings, being able to be found in your location and coming up top of SEO searches.

But additionally it feeds into our EHR optimization, and inefficiencies within our EHR service line that Angie’s team does such a great job with looking at best demonstrated practices, clinical workflow analysis, and giving those mid-size providers a way to compete against the larger groups from efficiencies and obviously trackable and reportable patient care outcomes.

Rebekah Duke: Yes, it’s been encouraging to see how we’ve been able to forge an alliance with our clients and help them be more competitive in this rapidly evolving healthcare marketplace. Thank you, James. All right, it’s Angie’s turn.

Angie Howard: I know Michael mentioned earlier, prior authorization, that’s a huge issue that a lot of our specialists struggle with getting paid for the work they’re doing.

So we did focus a lot on that. Just technology that is available and affordable for the average medical practice with all the consolidation. You know, like James said, with all the consolidation, there’s a lot of competition for providers and the technology out there is great, but is it affordable and is it useful?

We really focused on tools that would help the practices and healthcare organizations not only recoup revenue or keep revenue flowing, but also make the day-to-day operations a little bit more streamlined.

Rebekah Duke: Sounds like some productive window shopping there, vetting those solutions for our customers.

Thank you, Angie. Michael, do you have anything to add?

Michael Justice: I along the same lines as James and Angie, we look at it a little bit differently as we’re talking to vendors, et cetera, but we’re looking for tools that help enable those mid-market practices. To compete with the larger private equity backed practices and the larger hospital system practices.

So we found a number of tools that I think we’ll be able to recommend to our clients to help them compete, enable them to retain the patients they have and expand their patient base as well.

Rebekah Duke: Thank you Michael. Sounds like a very productive week of gathering all these insights so that we can better inform our competitive strategy for our customers.

Thank all of you for sharing. So Angie, as Michael was talking about earlier with some of the automations and technology, I understand that chatGPT and the whole gang of robot driven tools were a focal point of this conference. What would you say is the current picture on the evolution of these integrations?

Angie Howard: Well, yeah, AI was a large focus of the conference this year. Companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft are partnering with large healthcare organizations and I think we will see a solution for this very soon. My only hesitation is it’s new. Are we aware of all the issues with this technology? No. So I’ll be interested to see how they plan to address patient safety.

That’s always a priority with organizations, so I’ll be interested to see how they address that. But at HIMSS they did discuss using AI to address provider burnout, which has been a huge issue in US healthcare for some time now. I know there have been a lot of solutions thrown at that problem, but I don’t know to this day, if any, have really worked for providers.

There seems to be still a huge increase in provider burnout. So I don’t know if AI is the answer, but I hope it is.

Rebekah Duke: Yes, Angie, same here. I am looking forward to seeing how these automations ultimately impact burnout. So naturally the subject of patient engagement comes up at conferences like these.

And of course, patient engagement is crucial for patient retention. So Michael, can you share some insights in this area?

Michael Justice: Practices are competing today with the likes of Amazon and a number of consumer focused healthcare providers online. Patient portals are more important today than ever. Websites need to be responsive, current, and actually give information that patients are looking for.

Patient portal messages need to be responded to immediately. This is a big change for your typical mid-market medical practice. They’re used to doing most of this interaction through the telephone and over the last five years, I would say they’ve started slowly transitioning that to patient portals.

Patient portals are so important today and a lot of vendors at HIMSS were talking about various patient engagement solutions beyond portals, including text messaging, email messaging, AI as part of the telephone system to answer some basic questions. So that’s an area that’s gonna continue to grow as Amazon and Walmart, and other groups in that space continue to reach out and try to take patients away from the mid-market providers.

We’re gonna see a need to ramp up patient engagement, and it can’t just be, I call ’em an electronic billboard. It has to be something that truly is interactive, current, and meaningful. And there are lots of vendors that were at HIMSS that were making that point and trying to get some additional patients or clients.

Rebekah Duke: Thank you, Michael. It’s encouraging to know that the patient experience is coming into focus. Would someone like to chime in on what Michael shared?

James Worsham: I think well, as we see in our practice marketing line and our EHR optimization and even integrations for new EHR systems, one of the biggest requests from our healthcare mid-level and higher level, larger client base is that integration between EHR and the patient.

From a standpoint of scheduling, from a standpoint of requesting information and various EHRs. Some do a better job and some don’t do as good of a job as far as that interaction goes. And that trackable reportable patient engagement, which is so important to value-based care initiatives. It’s so important to patient care plans.

And as Michael alluded to the large corporations that already have the platforms across all media devices are finding it easier to plug and play and get to that client or that patient in this case that really wants that information. There’s still a large demographic that are more comfortable over the phone, calling the admin.

But then obviously from the practice standpoint it’s a labor intensive scenario, certainly on the front desk. And obviously we want the best outcomes for the patients and their information.

Rebekah Duke: Indeed we do James. Thank you. Angie, would you have anything to add regarding patient engagement?

Angie Howard: What I would say is patients are consumers and they are used to convenience or they want convenience. So if it’s a parent that needs to schedule an appointment for their child or an adult child that needs to schedule an appointment for their elderly parent or anybody in between, they need convenience and they want convenience.

You can do everything on your cell phone. Now you can check in with an airline. You have your e ticket. So healthcare is no different. You want your test results, you want everything at your fingertips. You wanna be able to schedule your appointment. You want to be able to, you know, send your doctor a message.

You want to see your med list, your lab results that were drawn yesterday. So, It’s just about convenience, but on the provider side, it’s about ease, right? You can only add on so much to your EHR before it becomes too expensive, you can’t afford it. So providers want to give their patient that ease of use and, and availability to their records, but it has to be affordable so they can offer those things. And easy to use for the staff. And I think Michael said it, there’s so much admin burden on staff, and a lot of these tools allow for those administrative people to do other things in the clinic to enhance patient care.

But at the end of the day what patients want is access.

Michael Justice: I think one thing I would like to add there tags along with Angie’s comment. Patients want to be able to interact with their practice 24/7 and they want responses promptly. Just like when they’re dealing with their bank. Or they’re dealing with their airline, or they’re dealing with their stockbroker.

They want immediacy and they don’t want restrictions on, oh, it’s five o’clock. I can’t call the doctor’s office because they close at 4:30. That’s very frustrating to almost every consumer today, and there are tools available to help alleviate that challenge, and I think we’re better positioned to be able to recommend those to our clients.

Angie Howard: You know, Michael, you’re right. I know for me as a parent. I don’t have time from nine to five to call the doctor’s office. So if I need to order a refill or I need to send a message, I can do that at 10 o’clock at night. And I love that convenience. I love that. I know that my child’s pediatrician will answer tomorrow or somebody from his office.

So, you know, with how busy everyone is, it’s nice that at 10 o’clock at night you can order a refill or check your labs. Everybody’s so busy, it’s about having everything really at your fingertips for convenience. That’s what everybody is accustomed to now, and if you don’t have that for your patients, it’s gonna be a big problem.

Rebekah Duke: Yes, Angie, that’s something I think we can certainly all agree on here. The importance of responding to the consumerization of healthcare and the demand for convenience cannot be over-emphasized. And we’ve come to our final question. So let’s say you’re having a client call this week and the HIMSS conference comes up. What are you most excited to share with them?

Angie Howard: The puppies

Michael Justice: Yeah. The puppies.

Rebekah Duke: Yes, yes, yes. We cannot leave out the puppy park and how much of a stress relief it is to get to pet some puppies during a busy conference like that.

James Worsham: Genius marketing plan bring puppies to a conference, 30,000 people attended conference.

Rebekah Duke: So there’s a consensus on the puppies.

Michael Justice: Yeah, puppies were awesome.

Angie Howard: Puppies were definitely a hit.

James Worsham: I would say that, you know, to anybody that didn’t attend HIMSS and for me, it was my first time. So I come at it from a fresh perspective that the healthcare industry in all of its spaces is alive and well.

Obviously, the large vendors and networks and POs are experiencing record growth through mergers and targeted patient acquisition. And from our standpoint, we do support and have a client base from very small providers, as I said earlier, all the way through large healthcare groups as well as private equity initiatives.

And if it’s one of those things that through efficiencies and technology, both at Angie and Michael referenced, it’s not just to keep up with your competition, it’s almost an expectation level of patient engagement, patient access to information, targeted patient acquisition, branding across all digital marketing spaces.

So that’s my takeaway that the business is certainly under a full set of steam.

Rebekah Duke: Thank you, James. That’s the perfect wrap up for this episode.

And this concludes our recap of HIMSS 2023. Many thanks to our panelists, Angie, Michael, and James for sharing these very interesting and valuable conference takeaways, and thank you to our audience for spending your time with us today.

Should you have any questions about what we covered, please shoot us an email info@medicaladvantage.com and check out our blog that shares information about AI, patient engagement, and a wide variety of EHR topics. If you found this episode to be valuable. Please follow us on this platform and join us for our next episode coming soon.

Medical Advantage Podcast: Thanks for joining us this week on the Medical Advantage Podcast where we discuss the ideas and technologies changing healthcare and what they mean to your organization. For more information, visit us at medicaladvantage.com and make sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcast, so you never miss a show. 

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