Miriam Beecham, Chief Strategy and Product Officer
The Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual conference and exhibition brings together over 40,000 health IT professionals, clinicians, executives, and vendors from around the world. Healthwise looks forward to this event each year. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn more—and share more—about what’s happening in the world of healthcare and health IT.
What stood out to me this year is how the combination of innovation and interoperability provides greater opportunity to improve the patient experience. When systems can communicate with each other and share data, it’s more possible than ever to create better care experiences and help people make better health decisions.
Patient care at home
Treating patients and supporting them at home holds great promise for chronically ill people who would traditionally have had to endure the inconveniences and risks associated with multiple or prolonged hospital stays. Now they can get top-quality care outside of the hospital. One example I noted is from Mercy Health System in Missouri. Their program, MercyVirtual, allows them to treat patients over the Internet and by phone while monitoring their health at home. In fact, the patients appear to create stronger relationships with their health teams, since they are in frequent and regular contact rather than just when an emergent event occurs.
The advent of FHIR and other interoperability standards, along with app marketplaces, allows for greater innovation because these standards make data sharing so much easier. The marketplaces give access to many more companies and developers, fostering the creation of new applications and approaches to patient care that integrate into clinical workflows. EHR companies can’t do it all by themselves, and FHIR makes it so they don’t have to.
One example of this is the Aunt Bertha platform. It’s integrated into Epic’s App Orchard via FHIR and offers an online database of community resources at the local level, so patients have more access to help.
Organizations have recognized for some time that a patient’s home and community environment can have a tremendous impact on their health outcomes. Now, via FHIR, care coordinators and case managers will have fingertip access to local community resources and can provide that information to the patients who need it.
Personalized patient experiences
Healthcare organizations are looking to best practices from other industries for creating top-notch customer experiences. We’re seeing significant investing to acquire and analyze patient data, so that each experience, both digital and in-person, can be tailored to the individual. This data considers a patient’s communication preferences, health literacy level, native language and culture, and level of engagement and activation.
Organizations also are looking to bring prospective patients into the health system fold sooner, by providing better onramps such as online symptom diagnosis and virtual visit capabilities. We’re seeing more focus on creating these relationships between people, providers, and organizations through innovative technology as early as possible, so patients start off on the path to the best care experience.