Skip to main content

From ViVE to HIMSS, It's All About the Data

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   March 06, 2024

Healthcare executives are looking for technology and ideas that promote connected care, but to make those connections they need to know how to handle data

AI may have ruled the roost at last week's ViVE conference, but the underlying theme to both that event and the upcoming HIMSS conference will be data management.

Simply put, AI won't work unless you know what to do with the data.

Healthcare's decision-makers are focused on information, as both a tool to improve clinical care and a means of defining and extracting value. But as new strategies and technology give hospitals, health systems, payers, and others access to more and more data, there are growing problems with how to analyze and store data, how to push the right data to providers and payers, how to move it from one entity to another, and how to secure it.

Andrew Trister, MD, PhD, chief medical and scientific officer at Verily, Alphabet's research arm, says many healthcare organizations are actually putting the cart before the horse on innovation. They're moving quickly with new programs that use AI tools without taking the time to make sure they have a handle on data storage and analysis.

"The decision-makers aren't thinking ahead," he said. "You have to be very deliberate in how AI is going out."

That's going to be crucial, he says, as healthcare organizations pivot from using AI for back office and administrative tasks to focus on clinical programs that affect patient outcomes.

Data is also the catalyst for the growing number of collaborations between health systems and large tech companies, as hospital executives are quickly realizing they don't have the resources or the expertise to handle what's coming into the enterprise. Whereas Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and others were initially seen as disruptors in the healthcare space, they're now becoming valued partners and collaborators.

Highmark Health, for example, announced a partnership with Google Cloud and Epic to extract and analyze data from its payer and provider platforms to improve care management.

"We're data rich but insight poor," said Richard Clarke, the Pennsylvania-based health system's chief technology officer, echoing a lament that many health system executives are saying. By leveraging the resources of Google, he said, Highmark can pull out and sort the data it needs to put before its care providers, giving them actionable information when they need it.

"They're going to get information that they've never had before," he added, referencing the health system's strategies for addressing social determinants of health and creating virtual care platforms that target health as well as care.

Understanding innovation

Data is both a curse and a cure in healthcare. At ViVE, health systems and vendors touted programs and strategies aimed at reducing the workload for doctors and nurses—a workload that has been built up over the years by new technologies that bring more data into the industry. In a sense, the industry has come full circle, embracing technology to improve healthcare and now looking for ways to clean up the problems caused by technology.

In one sense, the industry's biggest problem has been embracing and adapting to change. EHRs were originally viewed as an important platform for gathering and managing data, but providers weren't ready for the technology, and we all know what happened. At a ViVE panel on innovation, executives from four large and forward-thinking health systems said change management is the first and most important step in introducing new technologies and strategies. The soil has to be tilled and fertilized before new ideas can grow.

That may be why concepts like telehealth and virtual care have taken so long to sprout. Health systems and hospitals saw single-digit adoption until the pandemic, when everyone jumped on the bandwagon out of necessity and adoption surged to roughly 75%. While the pendulum has swung back since then as patients look to restore that in-person connection, both they and their doctors have seen enough data to understand the value of both telehealth and virtual care.

Likewise the acute care at home movement and remote patient monitoring, the subject of more than a few conversations on the ViVE floor. Healthcare providers are intrigued by the data they can get from their patients outside the hospital setting, especially at home, and how that data can be used to improve care management and outcomes.

Those strategies are part of a much larger effort to move healthcare away from periodic, or fee-for-service, care. Harnessing data from outside the traditional healthcare site gives providers and payers more insight into how care can be delivered more effectively.

Jennifer Goldsack, CEO of the Digital Medicine Society (DiMe), says the healthcare industry is coming around to the idea of using technology—specifically, digital health technology—to care for the whole patient, not just the sick or injured patient. She feels healthcare organizations are adopting digital health at a faster pace than expected.

Giving Value to Data

Which brings us back to data, and where events like ViVE, HIMSS and HLTH will go. Interoperability is an important topic because health systems, payers, and others in the industry need to be able to exchange data without barriers or hiccups. Hence the federal push for TEFCA and FHIR. Data that can only live in one place loses a lot of its value.

And data gains value in how it is shared and used. That's why connected care is a buzzword. Some have suggested a connected care showcase, much like the interoperability showcases at ViVE and HIMSS, where attendees can see how data is collected and used to connect disparate elements of the healthcare ecosystem, from providers and payers to social services, housing and food services, employers and retail services, schools and senior care facilities.

Today's healthcare executives are looking for these connections. They want to see technologies like AI and digital health that can collect and use data to connect the dots. And they want those tools and programs to make seamless connections, so that doctors and nurses are spending less time working with the technology and more time working with patients.

“We're data rich but insight poor.”

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, and Pharma for HealthLeaders.


New technologies like digital health and AI have given healthcare providers and payers access to more data than they can handle

Today's innovation landscape is focused on finding ways to manage that data and use it to solve healthcare's biggest headaches, including challenges caused by technology

At events like ViVE and HIMSS, healthcare executives are looking for tools and strategies that make the best use of data and forge connections to improve healthcare delivery.

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.