From the opening keynote of HIMSS 2018, you could tell things were going to be different. Unlike last year, where actors touted the marvels of flash drives and backup storage, this year kicked off with singers from The Voice. Not sure how to interpret their music choices, though, I’m sure Leonard Cohen never envisioned his anthem Hallelujah pumping up 45,000 healthcare IT experts.
Keynote speaker Eric Schmidt executive chairman of Alphabet, admonished the crowd to get to the cloud, any cloud, even Google Cloud’s competitors. He also described a scenario with an assistant named Liz, listening in on a doctor/patient visit and transcribing notes. Ironically, this exact scenario was announced by Microsoft the week before. I’ve witnessed shifts to digital and cloud before in other industries, and it does take a village, so Eric calling on the power of the technology and being rather vendor agnostic is a good sign. That said, there were a few things in his talk that might have ruffled his audience. First, where were the partners? In the utopia of voice and cloud for healthcare that Schmidt described the only partner referenced was Augmedix, poster child for Google Glass, and absolutely no healthcare system examples. Which makes sense, as when asked by HIMSS president emeritus, Steven Lieber for his parting words to the crowd, Schmidt said:
“You’re late to the party.”
Which is an interesting comment at as he was a guest keynote speaker at a healthcare IT event and representing big tech, so you could interpret this to mean:
“You’re late to the party (that we’re throwing in your house).”
As the keynote emptied in a mass stream to the tradeshow floor, I eavesdropped on a number of conversations, and many people weren’t too happy about the message: “they (aka tech) don’t understand how complicated our lives are.” It’s an interesting conundrum, because Google et al have solved some pretty complicated problems making sense of what we’re all looking for online, a problem of completely unstructured data, and yet, as recent Facebook incidents show, there can be a lack of respect for people’s data and privacy that is crucial for any type of healthcare deployment in big tech.
The tradeshow floor itself showed a lot of new entrants, including booths from Lyft and Uber, who previously had only partnered with companies like Circulation for medical transportation, and a much larger Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services presence than the previous year. Microsoft and IBM have been at the healthcare party for a long time, and have settled in.
Big tech is indeed at the party. Who else is at the party? Purveyors of security and in particular block-chain crypto were definitely there. We saw APIs hanging around the punch bowl, this time invited by the new Blue Button 2.0 initiative, unlike previous years as the date of big tech.
Who wasn’t at the party? Patients. On the one hand, we’ve found that the digital patient experience and patient engagement is now mainstream, and our research partner Tamara Deangelis from Boston University Center for Neurorehabilitation was awesome talking about patient/provider messaging at the patient engagement summit. At the broader HIMSS conference, it seemed only vendors were representing patients. Most of the patient invitations must have gotten lost in the mail.
One CIO I talked to suggested that there was a different feeling at HIMSS this year and that this is the year we’ll look back and see that things really changed for healthcare IT. We’ve seen an acceleration of the shift to the cloud for new patient-facing applications, and a rapid realization of a need for an overall patient digital strategy. All heartening, especially since it will take everyone at the party to accomplish this transformation, debutantes and charming hosts alike.
Until next year’s party, cheers!
(Footnote: The actual Google Cloud party had a long line immediately, so some people heeded Schmidt’s words about not being late for the fantastic view of the Bellagio fountains, poke bowls, and open bar. The party was predominantly male, which hopefully isn’t part of the vision. Of course, it was at the same time as the Women in Healthcare IT event, which I heard was awesome. Perhaps a poor party choice on my part.)