At HIMSS, Healthcare Technology Focuses on Telemedicine, Payment Platforms, Cybersecurity for Medical Devices

healthcare

At last week’s Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference (HIMSS), technology and medical professionals mainly focused on three areas of advancement and supply chain risk: the latest in telemedicine, the related consumer-driven payment platforms and cybersecurity for connected medical devices.

The weeklong event in Orlando, Florida, drew 1,300 exhibitors and about 45,000 people, with more than two-thirds of the participants identifying themselves as C-suite executives or senior execs.

Although the convention center’s floor was loaded with the usual suspects (IT, IS and healthcare-specialized data analytic vendors), this year saw many companies focused on telemedicine, payment platforms and cybersecurity.

These topics were the preferred themes of the conference’s main speakers, and they dominated the cocktail party discussions.

Not surprisingly, they’re all related. Consider this:

  • Alternative payment models are now rewarding hospitals for sending patients home sooner. In terms of reimbursement, therefore, value-based purchasing and care protocols are being effectively correlated, allowing performance improvements to be measured. As one result, supply chains are finally becoming clinically integrated.
  • Accordingly, the inpatient/outpatient services mix is changing, with a clear emphasis on outpatient services. For example, when the term “patient-centered medical home” was coined, it was promoted as a virtual concept/goal. Telemedicine is now coordinating and extending an otherwise fragmented care continuum. Care delivery protocols are literally running to the patient’s residential bedside.
  • Individual patient medical histories are becoming distributed, digitized records that are not only updated in real time by clinician inputs, but they’re also being propagated directly by an increasing number of inter-connected medical devices (devices that are connected to patients and provide information to downstream record-keeping systems, including charge capture and billing).

Did these dominos need to fall before health system investments aimed at operationalizing telemedicine made sense? The short answer is “yes.”

That said, while matters of liability and reimbursement still require fuller resolution, conference speakers seemed convinced that the age of telemedicine has officially arrived and that the next few years will be a boon for the solution providers.

Bob Monteverdi, global healthcare solutions leader for Lenovo, reinforced how the idea of telemedicine is expanding. “What used to be just, ‘How do we care for someone who’s not here in our facility?' is continuing to grow, despite the fact that virtual care is a relatively new technology,” he said. “The definition just keeps growing very, very rapidly.”

In terms of connected medical device cybersecurity (clearly foundational to the aforementioned), the problem is widely recognized as “white hot,” with the urgency evidenced in the form of long lines at several of the solution vendors’ booths.

Briefly, these solutions are installed as “taps” on hospital networks and, based on various proprietary methods of traffic analysis, they purport to automatically identify, fingerprint, manage and secure connected medical devices.

A slightly deeper dive reveals that some of these products are more focused on the internet of things (IoT), while others are dedicated to the internet of medical things (IoMT). The HIMSS organizers cleverly placed these companies in the same corner of the exhibit hall. In about a 20-square-yard area, there were no less than five exhibitors (CloudPost, Culinda, CyberMDX, Medigate and ZingBox). Several of these firms reported landing huge health systems in a matter of months, which is unheard of in healthcare, as sales cycles are typically measured in years.

Again, it speaks to the critical nature of the problem, as medical devices communicate with mission critical systems. Any breach would be hugely painful for a hospital, if not a near-death blow in terms of financial penalties and reputation loss. But that all pales relative to the obvious patient safety issues. Dealing with stolen patient medical records is one thing. Understanding that if patient records can be stolen, they can also be maliciously modified is even worse. But the idea that a bad actor could actually take control of a device connected to a patient is nothing short of horrific.

We thought it was time to shed some light on this booming solution market, as each vendor “brings it” a little differently. They are distinguished in a variety of ways, including how they go about identifying the many old and new devices that connect to hospital networks and how they integrate with existing security infrastructure. They are not all the same.

While we intend to explore all three areas (the latest in telemedicine, consumer-driven payment and connected device cybersecurity), we’re going to begin on the connected device front, as we see it as the ultimate supply chain risk.

So, stay tuned. We’re on it.

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