The big annual HIMSS confab wraps up tomorrow and as I reflect back on my days here a feeling of doom and gloom prevades my thoughts. Sure, the HIMSS team did their usual superior job of conference execution that went ahead like the well oiled machine that it is. Sure, there were plenty of informative sessions to help educate attendees on a whole host of topics, though it seemed like 90% of them were focused on the Stimulus Bill. Vendors were also more than willing, one might say anxious, to tell you all about the Stimulus package and how you, Mr. Hospital CIO or physician can capitalize on the federal largess to adopt their technology. Yes, if there were 3 words to describe this year’s HIMSS it would be: Stimulus, Stimulus, Stimulus
But despite all of these well meaning (and certainly many self-serving) efforts, I enter my hotel room tonight and sit-down to write this post feeling depressed.
The depression comes from a disconcerting feeling that all that I have seen in the last few days are clear examples of exactly what is wrong with healthcare and that the $20B+ that we, as a nation, are preparing to spend on HIT will make little difference and may actually make things worse.
Though a strong believer in the transformative power of HIT in healthcare, after sitting in on a number of sessions and having conducted briefings with over 20 vendors (yes, I’ve been extremely busy here), it is clear that the mindset of this industry and many of its self-promoting pundits, needs to hit the reset button (or better yet, go into retirement). We are not, as an industry, focusing on the right things. Rather than focusing on how to keep people out of the healthcare system, keep them from becoming patients, everything I have seen and heard here at HIMSS is about keeping people tied into the system. A sad and depressing state of affairs that if I think about it too much, makes me angry.
After spending the last several days at HIMSS, I am convinced that the only way we are going to move the needle in a positive direction is to begin handing over the reins to the consumer. For far too long this industry has kept the consumer in the dark and has not helped that consumer in directly managing their health. It has taken a paternalistic view that must end immediately. Nowhere at HIMSS did I see or hear people discuss the consumer (well, there was the occasional marketing education session on how to reach the consumer, but that is just marketing and doesn’t count). The only perspective on display at HIMSS is that of consumer as patient. Problem is, that view goes under the assumption that the only purpose of healthcare is to treat people that are already sick.
What about preventative health? What about the idea of keeping consumers out of the healthcare system? What is the roll of this industry in providing the tools and capabilities that will enable consumers and care providers to work more closely together for mutual benefit? Where are these discussions taking place? Where are these technologies on display? Well, they are certainly not here at HIMSS, or at least I couldn’t find them.
A Bright Ray of Sunshine
As I prepare to head back to Boston I can take some small comfort in my dinner tonight with the founder and CEO of a small Chicago start-up. Brilliant guy with an equally brilliant service that he is selling directly to large employers who sponsor the service to help keep their employees healthy. A comprehensive offering that assists employees in managing their interactions with the healthcare system, but more importantly, assists those employees in staying out of the healthcare system. The company’s success is best represented by one of their first large customers, now nearly 2 years into it, who now has 96% of covered lives (that’s the employee and their covered family members) actively using the solution to manage their health. I know of no other company in the market today that can demonstrate that level of adoption – simply an amazing number. I’ll be doing a deeper dive on this company in the near future after I have had a chance to talk to their customers.
That bright ray of sunshine is what keeps me going. Having heard that story, and I am sure there are others out there. I am more convinced than ever that the role of Chilmark Research is to search out and find those innovators who are working to take healthcare in a completely new direction. This is why I started Chilmark Research – those stories need to be told, and we need solid analyst research to substantiate those claims and better understand the true adoption drivers. This is where Chilmark Research will devote the majority of its efforts and hope that you will assist us by providing those stories, those proof points, that will, in a broader context, move the needle in a positive direction.