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Tackling Tech Adoption at HIMSS

HIMSS 2019, the leading technology conference within the health information sector, took place last week. Professionals across the industry shed light on the most innovative advancements in the health tech sector, the long-term challenges we face as an industry and the opportunities ahead.

Interoperability, cybersecurity, personalisation, VR, cloud technology, value-based care models, patient engagement and population health management were top of the agenda.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma notably put interoperability in the limelight, stating that ‘the industry’ has not been doing what’s ‘important’ and ‘needed’ for patients and for the healthcare system. And VC’s unveiled which areas of the sector they see as most lucrative in terms of future investment – with AI, telemedicine, remote monitoring and behavioral health being highlighted.

With companies vying for dominance in these arenas, it’s easy to get caught up in the technicalities of digital transformation. However, COO of the Jewish Senior Living Group Michael Skaff raised a more philosophical question at this year’s event – considering what’s needed to turn the theoretical into reality.

“Digital transformation doesn’t happen quickly or easily,” he said. “Look at the structural elements of what drives organisational change. It doesn’t matter what the tools are — they could be digital, they could be process, they could be financial, they could be a lot of different things — what matters are the core elements of change.”

Dedicating his time on stage to discuss patients’ acceptance and readiness to accept new digital tools is significant as it touches upon a much wider potential hurdle and barrier to entry for the healthcare industry-at-large.

Whether VR, wearables or IoT are being utilised to address chronic pain, fight anxiety, help overcome phobias, or alleviate suffering resulting from memory loss, it is crucial that companies understand the patient’s needs, emotions and requirements in order for this technology to be fully adopted.

This is something the chief medical officer and vice president and general manager of healthcare for Samsung, Dr. David Rhew put eloquently at HIMSS this year, when he said the below in relation to engaging seniors:

“They want to reduce their cognitive decline, they don’t want to lose their mind or memory, the don’t want to be lonely — they want to become more functional,” Rhew said. “If you can address those needs, then you’re more likely to get to a point of constant action and participation.”

What’s clear is that only by being able to take a step back and consider the motivations behind human behaviour, will long term change be feasible.

By simply asking how a patient feels, what it is they’re struggling with, what motivates and frustrates them, companies can better understand how to cater to their needs and ensure longevity of use.

In January, we asked the leaders and innovators of the industry to look forward, and share their new year’s resolutions for 2019. It seems fitting to quote Alistair Stuart, Director of Clinical Innovations and Digital Platforms at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), who summarises the point succinctly – “Let’s deliver on the promise in 2019 – we’ve never been in such a great position to deliver on the benefits of health tech for so many patients around the world – those with access to healthcare and those without.”