• Lydia Lee, Leadership |
  • Evan Rawstron, Leadership |

As international borders continue to open, health system leaders from around the world converged in Orlando, Florida for the 2022 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Global Health Conference and Exhibition (HIMSS) to discuss improving healthcare quality, safety, sustainability and access through the best use of information technology and information management systems. As global co-leads for KPMG’s digital health transformation methods and solutions we had the pleasure of attending the conference.

In the last two years as the health sector responded to COVID-19 it has undergone a great deal of transformation as a result. Healthcare organizations and technology companies showcased their abilities to adapt care models and deploy digital solutions to meet the quickly evolving needs of communities. These circumstances heavily influenced the offering at HIMSS and will likely influence the future of healthcare. Below are some observations taken away from the event.

1. Public health gets invited to the party

The pandemic has exposed health inequality and access issues in jurisdictions around the world, shining a spotlight on the burden of disease associated with the social determinants of health. It also highlighted information gaps in public health and its lack of integration with broader health systems. The past two years have demonstrated the critical role of data in enabling the rapid decisions necessary to support effective public health responses. The large contingent of public health leaders attending the conference reflected these sentiments.

2. AI and analytics are embedded in everything

Almost every solution presented at the exhibition showed embedded artificial intelligence and speed-to-insight from native analytical tools and dashboards. While this progress is laudable, a solution to the challenge of generating insights that rely on data from multiple systems in use across large and complex health systems remains elusive. Investments in decisive analytics and automation strategies to build durable cross-platform capabilities are expected to be critical to helping ensure that native dashboard insights are decision-relevant for multidisciplinary front-line teams.

3. The battle of the platforms: Tough decisions

The burgeoning low/no code functionality available across engagement and workflow platforms (think Microsoft, Salesforce, and ServiceNow, to name a few) provides flexibility to healthcare organizations in modernizing outdated, manual processes. At the same time, the proliferation of use cases that overlap with well-established systems of record place greater emphasis on the strategic nature of platform investments and the importance of clear objectives to guide architectural and procurement decisions. Even if providers have resolved their HCM, ERP, CRM, and LMS (or any other system described by a three-letter acronym) they cannot optimize without a platform that automates and streamlines workflows between core transactional systems. These decisions are particularly critical where organizations have lower levels of digital maturity and are considering the role of platforms as a cost-effective alternative to ‘system of record’ functionality.

4. Integrated care is still elusive

At HIMSS, the number of digital solutions that aim to solve the integrated care challenge have increased, but there remains ambiguity about the best way to address interoperability, collaboration, and communications across diverse care settings. A critical challenge in this space revolves around larger providers often bearing costs, but with expected benefits accruing to consumers and community, and with payers, and primary and secondary care providers. It’s hard to see how technology can solve this integration problem without meaningful reform of reimbursement and payment systems.

5. Cloud’s silver lining yet to be realized

Although most of the vendor solutions on display at HIMSS were “in the cloud”, on-premise hosting remains a critical part of provider technology strategies. The reasons for this current-state stickiness are clear: shifting from CAPEX to OPEX is tricky; many lack the capability to predict and manage cloud workloads to achieve cost effectiveness; and “agile” operating models are still maturing. Finally, getting these foundational investments on the busy radars of executive teams is a continuing challenge for many CIOs. At the conference, it was interesting to see a number of emerging business models aimed to de-risk and accelerate the ‘jump’ to the cloud.

6. The rise of cyber-risk

The past two years have seen unprecedented rates of digital adoption in healthcare systems globally across new hardware, software, and digital channels. With this increasingly complex architecture, comes a growing sense of the clear and present risk that cyber poses for healthcare leaders and vendors alike. The need for more disciplined management of this risk will likely require a better grip in areas such as data exchange, asset management, and cyber-culture.

7. Scaling economies for competitive advantage

The breadth of technology and digital investment opportunities on display at the conference raise questions about how smaller providers will keep pace and mature, given the high costs of entry to the ‘digital health club’. While provider consolidation is a possible outcome, it’s not the only option. HIMSS demonstrated new and different types of partnerships and services that are arising to help bridge this ‘digital divide’ and help smaller providers reach high levels of maturity more quickly.

8. Digital transformation is a journey

Delegates to the HIMSS conference were obviously keen on technology, but surprisingly, many seemed still to be focused on technology as a goal of true transformation, rather than an enabler of it. Workforce shortages, a lack of goal clarity for patient/client experiences and operational improvement, and difficult decisions on where to start with digital, are now the perfect storm overwhelming health system leaders.

Ultimately, transformational change in healthcare is enabled by the redesign of infrastructure, human capital, workforce, regulation and reimbursement processes. Transformation is only achievable with the right, holistic approach to connect strategy, experience, enterprise capabilities and digital enablement.

There is an exciting but at the same time, challenging road ahead for healthcare. A road that should be travelled in order to help ensure that health and healthcare are affordable and accessible. KPMG professionals around the world can support healthcare organizations on this journey. Connect today to learn about how KPMG firms can support your organization’s current challenges and future needs.

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