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6 Takeaways from HIMSS 2022


To get a sense of the healthcare industry’s challenges and opportunities at the second anniversary of widespread pandemic lockdowns in the US, the team at Zayo attended one of the most highly anticipated healthcare events of the year – HIMSS 2022.

This year’s HIMSS conference was all about reimagining health with digital transformation efforts at the forefront. While the pandemic pushed healthcare organizations to transform quickly in some areas, there’s still progress to be made. Only 7% of healthcare and pharmaceutical companies have undergone a digital transformation, compared to 15% in other industries.

In this blog, we’ll explore the changes underway and the unique challenges facing the healthcare industry with our six key takeaways from HIMSS 2022.

1. Cybersecurity must be top-of-mind for healthcare organizations as they transform

Cyber threats are growing in size and scale across industries. The healthcare industry, however, faces a unique threat to valuable, sensitive patient and research data. Lost or stolen private health information costs the healthcare industry in the US nearly seven billion dollars a year. Ransomware, too, has become a top concern for healthcare organizations in recent years. A 2020 survey found that 34% of organizations in healthcare fell victim to a ransomware attack in the past year.

But there is some hope for a turnaround. According to the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, 85% of all cybersecurity breaches are related to the human element. This means that putting the right practices and tools in place can make a significant difference. Many healthcare professionals are aware of the danger of cybersecurity breaches, they just need to be equipped with the right tools and training to be more secure.

On top of secure staff access tools like single sign-on and multi-factor authentication, email security must be top-of-mind for healthcare organizations to ensure the secure delivery and authentication of their messages. From an organizational level, DDoS protection should be implemented, as well, to mitigate the possibility of vital internet-based services going offline.

2. Big data poses unique challenges and opportunities to the industry

Big data can provide enormous opportunities, but can also be a major headache if not managed in the right way. According to Bruno Nardone from Quantiphi, the data available to healthcare professionals today is more complex than the workforce can manage.

For one, valuable patient data is now coming from both within and outside healthcare organizations. Lots of health-oriented applications and devices that exist today allow consumers to take more ownership of their health by providing them with access to vital health data. An Apple Watch, for example, may be a treasure trove of crucial patient information like heart rate, sleep, and physical activity. This data has the potential to be used to spot concerning patterns and improve patient outcomes. However, there’s still a major gap between the availability of that data and a clinician’s use of it.

And it’s not just data collected from patients’ devices that isn’t being used to its full potential. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities are failing to share the data they collect with one another. Different facilities are taking records differently, and digital transformation is not happening at an equal rate across the board. The accuracy of the information and where the information is being stored often differs, too. In fact, our team learned at HIMSS that some hospitals still store their critical patient information on hardware like USB drives and CDs, while others have moved their data to the cloud. This makes it difficult for healthcare professionals to draw conclusions and uncover patterns among the disparate and inaccurately recorded data.

Despite the pitfalls of data complexity and lack of interoperability, big data provides a wealth of opportunities for the healthcare industry. If analyzed properly, data can be used to make sense of patterns across patient records to improve preventative care, treatment, and diagnosis. By analyzing the data at hand, healthcare professionals can better identify warning signs in patients and help come up with a treatment plan that builds on patterns they’ve seen in other patients.

3. Some areas of healthcare can and should be virtualized

Healthcare is often thought of as a field that cannot be fully transitioned to virtual environments. It’s thought that the in-person healthcare experience is the only way to go. While the in-person experience is necessary in several cases, there are areas of the healthcare experience that can be virtualized to improve patient and staff experiences.

Probably one of the first things that comes to mind when people think of virtual healthcare, telehealth gained significant traction during the pandemic as staff resources pooled into fighting the healthcare crisis at hand and non-critical visits took a backseat. Telehealth uptake rates had been lagging in the US for years since its inception, but they skyrocketed to 80% overnight as the pandemic kicked into full gear.

And telehealth doesn’t just have a purpose during a time of crisis. In fact, 65% of consumers say they plan to use telehealth after the pandemic ends according to the “Smart and Connected Hospital Strategic Care Transition” session at HIMSS. Telehealth can continue to help alleviate some of the burdens on staff, decrease no-shows to appointments, and provide easier access to patients.

While it may not seem like one of the departments that can be easily virtualized from the outset, the ICU is another area of the hospital that can be virtualized. Our team attended the “Enabling Virtual Care and AI at Scale” session led by Houston Methodist Hospital Chief Innovation Officer Roberta Schwartz to get a better understanding of how virtual intensive care units, or vICUs, are transforming the industry. We learned that digitizing portions of this department can seriously mitigate staff shortages, provide specialized critical care delivery, improve throughput, and lower mortality rates.

4. Staff must be champions of digital transformation efforts

To achieve digital transformation in any industry, some level of buy-in is required. Whether it’s the staff using the tools, the IT team implementing them, or the decision-makers determining the ROI, a successful digital transformation needs everyone to be on board.

Healthcare decision-makers must undergo a cost-benefit analysis before bringing on any new tools, and the stakes are high – slight changes in processes have the potential to cause real harm. IT teams and leaders must be strategic about where they spend their money and it’s tough to demonstrate a return on investment for a digital healthcare tool in the beginning and planning stages without the data to prove its worth.

In order to increase staff buy-in, leaders and teams trying to implement new digital tools must display how the tool will positively impact workloads and the organizations as a whole. They should get widespread buy-in, not only from decision-makers but also from doctors, nurses, financial services, and other staff that may use the tool or be impacted by it.

Once decision-makers have received widespread buy-in and have implemented digital tools, they must provide the proper training. Without this, staff may become frustrated and not use the tools properly or at all. If implemented correctly, digital tools can positively impact healthcare professionals’ workloads and patients’ experiences.

5. Healthcare organizations should automate what can be automated

Automation can be a tricky topic in any industry. The idea that algorithms and machines can take over human labor can be stress-inducing – especially for those in an industry that has so long been focused on delivering personalized, human care. However, automation can help take the load off of human workers to allow them to focus on providing the best possible patient experience.

Logistics is one area of the healthcare industry that could benefit greatly from greater automation. The pandemic made some of the hiccups in healthcare logistics management obvious to even the least informed consumer. As demand rose quickly for things like surgical masks and respirators, the supply chain struggled to keep up, creating dire outcomes for patients and staff around the world.

One hospital in South Korea is tackling this issue head-on with a smart logistics management system that blew our team away. Samsung Medical Center is using a smart logistics system to check supply levels using sensors in carts, automatically deliver stockpiles using robots, and offer real-time logistics safety management. Their digital transformation efforts provide a highly intelligent, automated replacement for human transporters, boosting confidence in the supply of critical items in doctors and nurses.

Aside from assisting with logistics, automation technology in the form of artificial intelligence can help efficiently reduce burnout and increase accuracy when it comes to data analysis. Humans are susceptible to burnout when they’re looking at dozens of MRI or X-ray scans a day in search of warning signs, leading to a lack of accuracy in their critical work. Computers, however, are not and can be more adept at spotting patterns in the data presented to them, reducing the possibility of costly human error.

For those concerned with the possibility of a computer taking their job, there’s reason to be excited about the opportunities this technology holds. Algorithms can provide a helpful supplement to human work without eliminating the need for it. Although they are highly analytical problem-solvers, computers simply cannot replace the compassion and understanding of a human practitioner.

6. Consumer-centric experiences should be built on technology advantages

While a digitally optimal healthcare ecosystem is the ultimate goal, the human connection element must not be lost along the way. Providing a high level of personalized care is integral to creating a consumer-centric, digital healthcare experience.

The concept of being “good” and not just “healthcare good” was something our team heard time and time again at HIMSS. It’s time to start thinking about the consumer experience like a cutting-edge technology company, not just like a healthcare company. The truth is, regardless of the industry the best consumer experience will always win. With new, non-traditional players entering the healthcare space, existing organizations should rethink their digital strategies to best suit the consumer for optimal cost and experience – or else face being overtaken by a competitor that can provide a better customer experience.

Digital tools can help bolster the consumer experience in healthcare by breeding more seamless care from the home to the hospital. Digital tools, when implemented correctly, can help keep patients connected, enable unprecedented access, and empower greater patient ownership. Technology can help enhance the human experience rather than detract from it by providing 24/7, on-demand consumer access.

A future of possibilities in healthcare

While there are a lot of hurdles for healthcare organizations to overcome, we prefer to look at the bright side. With only 7% of healthcare organizations having undergone digital transformation, that means the other 93% have a world of digital transformation possibilities ahead of them – and that’s pretty exciting!

Digital transformation is a continuous journey for healthcare companies, not a destination. Most organizations are just beginning their journey. Creating a consumer-centric, technology-enabled healthcare experience will be the key to survival in the next generation of healthcare.

Learn more about the digital transformation trends shaping the healthcare industry.