Aug 11 2021

HIMSS21: 3 Considerations for Strengthening Digital Health Strategies

From making security foundational to maintaining the momentum of innovation, experts at HIMSS21 are keeping digital transformation front of mind.

This year’s HIMSS gathering has highlighted lessons from the pandemic, including innovations and ongoing digital transformations in the healthcare industry.

The healthcare IT conference and exhibition from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society underwent its own digital transformation with a hybrid approach to the annual event: HIMSS21 is taking place in person in Las Vegas and virtually through an online platform.

As HealthTech follows HIMSS21 digitally, we’re keeping track of key ways to enhance digital strategies beyond the immediate health crisis:

1. Powering and Protecting the Transformation

Healthcare organizations displayed tremendous resiliency when pandemic safety protocols prompted remote work policies and a surge in virtual care services.

Through an onsite video presentation, CDW experts shared insights on protecting and powering digital health strategies for better outcomes.

But for those organizations whose resiliency was pushed to the limit, what could help ease their burdens?

HIMSS CDW

CDW experts share how organizations can better power their digital health strategies.

“I used to think of resiliency and reliability as a trade-off between speed,” said Casey Bleecker, director of strategic go to market, digital velocity solutions at CDW, in conversation with CDW Healthcare CTO Tom Stafford. “Now, we can remove that trade-off through a really core technology: automation.”

“A lot of security strategies and the ability to rapidly manage and deploy large-scale architectures all come back to infrastructure automation,” Bleeker added.

They discussed the importance of amplifying a digital strategy across infrastructure, virtual care and patient data protection. “One of the biggest areas is modernizing their data center strategies to become more business-focused, patient-driven and competitive in today’s markets,” Bleeker said.

WATCH FOR MORE: Tips on how to power and protect digital health strategies.

2. Reviewing Your Path Toward EHR Modernization

As care delivery continues to evolve outside the walls of a doctor’s office, access to electronic health records and their capabilities need to grow with the ever-expanding perimeter.

Chris Logan, executive healthcare advisor for VMware’s Global Industries Group, spoke at an onsite session about EHR modernization, the need for EHR access outside of workstations and on-premises data centers, and the capabilities that have matured since 2009.

“As medicine changes, as patients demand more digital and consumer-facing solutions, you’re going to have to find ways to bring those solutions into the EHR and into the public sphere,” Logan said in an interview with HealthTech. “We’re at a crossroads where I wouldn’t say the EHR is the most important application that’s being managed and delivered — it’s one of many — but it’s still that focal point for a lot of folks because it’s the lifeblood of how we build, how we receive our revenue back to the services we provide.”

With healthcare systems in charge of sensitive patient data, security becomes a major issue. Although security was more of an afterthought when EHR systems were being built, Logan said there has certainly been a shift in thinking, especially in the era of hybrid cloud deployments.

“Security now has to be a part of that conversation, and it can’t be a bolt-on of many tools. It has to be seamless and ingrained into what’s being delivered,” Logan said. “It has to be part of the conversation right up front. It’s no longer a nice-to-have — it’s a necessity.”

For healthcare systems moving toward an “anywhere-care environment,” Logan said that involves putting patient information in the hands of providers using their devices of choice, and giving them flexibility and a seamless, consistent, high-quality experience that will open the floodgates for delivering the same type of experience to patients.

Logan said it’s also imperative that organizations secure the “distributed edge” as providers reach patients outside hospital walls.

“The edge of my network can be anywhere; it can be based on workload, it can be based upon an identity, it can be based upon the device itself, so easing the movement of this concept of zero trust, really ingraining security into the fabric of the DNA of the platform itself,” Logan said.

3. Keeping the Momentum for Innovation

IBM healthcare experts spoke during a digital session about the opportunity the healthcare industry faces to scale new norms and ensure continued resiliency. CTO Ryan Hodgin and global transformation leader Kate Huey, both with IBM’s Healthcare and Life Sciences practice, discussed the need for a culture shift in digital transformation and avoiding the status quo.

“We saw things that would’ve taken us months and years that we really pulled off in days and weeks,” Huey said. “It’s been phenomenal to see that things that had really not been accepted, within 18 months we had up and running and accepted not only by our users but also by our clinicians.”

Although the pandemic highlighted gaps in health equity, Huey said digital health solutions will play a role in lessening that gulf. “We absolutely need to keep up the momentum and innovation that we’ve seen over the last 18 months,” she said.

However, there needs to be a culture change in digital transformations, and she highlighted that a large percentage of projects fail because of a lack of user acceptance.

MORE FROM HIMSS21: Healthcare executives share digital health lessons learned.

“We need to be looking at how we take transformation that really drives innovation, that allows our healthcare folks to have data at their fingertips so they can really make decisions and drive action in ways that they couldn’t previously,” she said.

As an example, Cleveland Clinic and IBM announced earlier this year a long-term partnership for quantum computing. “Technologies that used to be science experiments are now actually coming to life, and they’re driving innovation,” Huey said, citing AI-infused technology, quantum computing and blockchain.

As healthcare organizations review their digital transformations and set themselves on a path to success, Huey said it would help to see these changes happening as an active partnership rather than “happening to you.”

“If we don’t have trust on all sides, then the transformation will fail as well,” Huey said.

Keep this page bookmarked for our ongoing virtual coverage of HIMSS21. Follow us on Twitter @HealthTechMag and join the conversation using the hashtags #HIMSS21 and #CDWHIMSS.

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