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Five things we learned at HIMSS 2019

HBI attended the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) & Health 2.0 European Conference in Helsinki this week, alongside hundreds of health tech innovators and policymakers. Here are five things we learned.

1) Digital isn’t always the solution…

… Personalised care is. And we are some way from being able to do it right. One delegate, a PhD student who developed a digital platform for caregivers of patients with dementia, is very sceptical about the ability of digital to meet this need. “Take an episode of disruptive behaviour with a dementia patient. Some patients will calm down if spoken to, others if shown a photo album. It is entirely subjective. We would need AI robots to be able to anticipate that and respond accordingly.” For such patients, wearables just aren’t enough.

2) The new buzzword is interoperability…

… which is as much of a mouthful as it is difficult to put into practice. In this context, interoperability means effective communication between healthcare data systems – so that a patient can travel and have their EHR accessible from abroad, for instance. For this to happen, there needs to be a consensus on what things mean between systems and professionals. To this end, a large number of competing ‘standards’ have been created – far too many, in fact. It seems the jury is out on which will dominate – though the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources standard, or FHIR standard, seems to be gaining traction. Unless you’ve got robust EHRs, however, there’s no point paying much attention.

3) AI is only as good as the data you’ve got

“Sometimes AI fails and numbers don’t talk,” said one speaker at an AI Masterclass. Not only do you need an effective way to collect and record the right data, but you then also need to structure and ‘clean’ it. Without good data, AI is useless. After that, know what you’re looking for and be prepared to act on your findings. What if operational changes need to be made to your services? Are you prepared to invest in that?

4) Not everyone will benefit from blockchain 

If you are not looking to reduce admin costs and your data handling is already GDPR proof, why bother with blockchain? What the technology does is put consent around the use of patient data squarely in the hands of the patient – all good stuff – and since the data is accessible through a ‘key’ from various locations, it removes the administrative burden of sharing that data. But if those aren’t priorities, the hype may well pass you by.

5) The Nordics stand out when it comes to leveraging healthcare data

Finland has put its latest data sharing initiative – Findata – into legislation, which by next year will allow third parties such as healthcare companies to use the data to optimise service delivery. There is also talk of the seamless use of data across borders to improve the patient experience. The Nordic Interoperability Project is hoping to make waves by bringing stakeholders together to meet this goal. We could all draw inspiration from such moves.


We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to Anaïs Charles or call 0207 183 3779.