Possibly the most interesting thing in healthcare technology is the breadth of scope that health tech needs to cover, and the talks at the HIMSS Montana annual spring conference represented that with talks about security, how to find money for projects, consumer engagement, and how to create a state-wide initiative for healthcare IT. Just like the state of Montana, talks covered a lot of territory.
Here’s a small review of what attendees experienced:
I had the honor of kicking off the HIMSS Montana Chapter “Transforming Healthcare” conference with an introduction to how voice technologies show promise in patient care. There’s still a lot of concern in the industry about what these voice assistants are tracking, and the speaker immediately after me talked about a surgeon using Alexa to play music in the operating room (a non-compliant use as Alexa might be ‘listening’ to the conversation). However, today’s news that Comcast is also getting into the voice healthcare game shows that there is real promise and high stakes. If you’re interested in this topic you might want to check out our white paper on considerations for designing voice interfaces for patient care, or join me at Voice Summit in Newark this fall for a workshop.
Not surprisingly security remains a hot topic in healthcare, probably because of the surface area of devices and IOT devices. While bad actors and hackers remain a constant threat, people and process are as important, and speakers stressed that often breaches are not malicious but when people don’t follow proper process like the backup company driver who left a van full of backup tapes in his driveway overnight where it was broken into.
Interestingly according to Fred Langston, CISSP, CCSK Executive VP of Professional Services CI Security, imaging systems account for almost 50% of security alerts, possibly because the systems involve both hardware and software, and have often been installed for years. EMRs are seen as relatively safe, and other risks come from devices, attached to the hospital network, where manufacturers have stopped upgrading or patching devices, or simply stopped support for them. The reason is that any sort of software or firmware upgrade requires new FDA certification, which may be cost prohibitive on a discontinued product. There are startups trying to solve this problem, however the FDA may also want to reconsider the unintended consequences of their certification program.
Generally, it takes 205 days within a hospital system until a compromised asset is detected. Decreasing this time and the time from the realization of the compromise and fix (known as dwell time), should be the goal of all IT departments. Hiring a security consultant organization may be the best bet for the broad scope of monitoring that needs to happen.
Finding Money for Innovation
Dianna Linder, MPA, FACHE Director of Grants and Program Development, Billings Clinic is a grant-writer who has been successful at finding funding sources for innovative projects. Much like targeting sales, donor targeting involves figuring out the value proposition you can offer to a particular donor. The Billings Clinic has a shark-tank day where everyone comes with their projects to request funding. Projects are stack-ranked and budget is applied. For those that don’t get budget, Linder looks for other sources like grants. She warns that grants are best used for projects that are new experiments and where the headcount is not part of the spend since they cannot ensure someone of a job when the grant money runs out. A great example of a use of grant money was for building an intake facility for mental health, so that people did not languish in the ED. This program used staff that were already at the system and proved successful enough that it became operationalized the following year.
At Wellpepper, we’ve seen a few projects start with grants, like the one that the Schultz Foundation provided to EvergreenHealth to kick off a patient engagement project that has since been operationalized. Grants for research projects like the one with Harvard are also interesting.
Ben Wanamaker, Head, Consumer Technology & Services from Aetna made us promise not to blog or tweet about his session where he shared some results from Aetna’s partnership with Apple’s smart watch. So, go see for yourself how the application uses behavioral economics and design principles to reward people for healthy behavior.
Building a State-Wide Healthcare IT Strategy
Did you know that 10 states have a state-wide healthcare IT strategy? No? Neither did I. These strategies, when aligned with Medicare and Medicaid initiatives can help drive adoption and support for healthcare technology, innovation, and modernization initiatives. The benefits of the roadmaps are to focus on healthier residents, and freeing information. Another important benefit is funding that is matched by the federal government. While this type of program may be out of reach for the average healthcare technology enthusiast, knowing that they exist can offer opportunities to align with larger initiatives.