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What Innovation Will Have the Greatest Impact on Health Systems? Spoiler Alert: Most Say AI

Analysis  |  By Mandy Roth  
   February 18, 2019

HIMSS participants share insights about what technological developments will change healthcare.

Last week the world of healthcare information technology gathered in Orlando, Florida, for the HIMSS 2019 annual conference. There were 42,595 people, 1,300 exhibitors, and more than 300 educational sessions.

For a few days, the Orange County Convention Center became the epicenter of healthcare technology brain power, with many on a quest for the best ideas that will help transform healthcare.

As HealthLeaders' innovations editor, I was interested in what innovation participants thought will have the greatest impact on health systems, I asked that question to nearly everyone I encountered during interviews, at exhibit booths, and while networking. The responses were diverse, but the most common answer involved some form of artificial intelligence (AI).

Following are among the most compelling responses I heard to the question, "From your perspective, what innovation will have the greatest impact on health systems?"

Artificial Intelligence

"The [innovation] I'd like to see that could have the greatest impact on healthcare is really facilitating the use of electronic medical record by our clinical caregivers. But I'm not seeing it. So what I am seeing, and what I think is going to have a huge impact, is artificial intelligence—that's everything from the ability to interpret images, to helping clinicians in making the best decisions in their care practices." —Marc Probst, vice president and chief information officer, Intermountain Healthcare

Mobile Health and Wearables

“Artificial intelligence, big data analytics, mobile health, and wearables are all poised to have a significant impact on healthcare and to grow in 2019. But I believe that mobile health and wearables will take the biggest leap forward as the continued pursuit of consumerism moves care outside of the hospital—offering patients greater convenience, more continuity of care, and lower costs.” —Chris Carmody, senior vice president, enterprise IT infrastructure, UPMC

Innovations That Can Be Used Today

"Innovation that we can make use of right now. A lot of the innovation that we see today is very promising about solving future problems, but we have lots of things that we need to care of now. So we're always on the lookout for innovation that we can jump into and take advantage of right now … [For example,] AI is wonderful in terms of what the technology will bring. But today we have reporting challenges. We need ways to be able to see real-time information for what's going on in our large complex organizations. Solutions that help us with problems that we're trying to solve, as we speak, are very valuable to us. And we love when they're built on platforms that will give us innovative ideas well into the future. But sometimes we struggle with some of these big ideas that aren't quite ready for prime time." —Darren Dworkin, chief information officer, enterprise information services, Cedars-Sinai

Artificial Intelligence and Precision Medicine

"For health systems, I was most struck by all artificial intelligence and machine learning technology on display. Very soon, I expect this will really impact how health systems operate and improve the efficiencies of the services [health] systems provide. With regard to patient care, it is clear that we are just starting to experience the benefits of precision medicine delivering the right care for the right patient at the right time." —Bernie Rice, chief information officer at Nemours Children's Health System

Shared Decision-Making Tools

In my role, I feel the most innovative thing that will be happening is true shared decision-making tools that patients will use to be a part of their care instead of just having it done to them. Through their phone, through apps, and through technology, patients will be part of and understand the decisions that [impact their healthcare]. —Sue Murphy, MS, BSN, chief experience officer, University of Chicago Medicine

Information Utilization

"The use of information is changing the entire way we respond to all of our strategic plans. I work with health systems around the globe. We are all facing the exact same challenges … I think the biggest impact will be how people approach their digital health strategy going into this year and what we can do to make it easy for them—so semantic interoperability; the easiness to get ahold of the information and integrate it both inbound and outbound; we can work collectively between organizations like HIMSS, the government freeing up data, and the proposed rules; and the opportunity to take advantage of all the new innovations around it. So it's all around the utilization of information; it's transforming us so fast." —Hal Wolf, president and CEO, HIMSS

Cloud-Native Communication

Cloud-native communication is a more agile and flexible approach to securely delivering relevant information to clinicians when they need it. Cloud-native communication not only streamlines clinical workflows and helps care teams better collaborate on patient care, but it’s also easier for IT professionals to manage platforms in the cloud, rather than multiple disparate systems. Partnering with companies like Amazon Web Services allows for [a] highly secure and dynamically scalable platform that encourages faster innovation. —Vince Kelly, CEO, Spok

Home Health Surveillance and Supervision

"It isn't so much about the technology innovation inside the hospital; it's going to be the innovation around patients when they're outside of the hospital but still under the supervision of that hospital, which is going to affect the whole health care system. We're beginning to surface all of these technologies that allow healthcare providers to do surveillance or supervision of patients' recovery in the home … If we were able to extend for one year Americans' ability to stay in their homes when they're old, or when they're undergoing chemotherapy, or whatever it is, that's actually going to move the needle on Medicare in a huge way. It's also going to completely restructure the way that we think about the care that we deliver. The whole notion of inpatient days, the whole notion of length of stay, all of those kinds of fundamentals that that drive the economics of healthcare are going to have to be recalculated." —Roy Schoenberg, MD, MPH, president and CEO, American Well

AI and Telehealth

"I think there are two: artificial intelligence, like voice assistants being used in a hospital space, but I think telehealth and telemedicine are going to explode and expand. I believe the walls of hospitals will become thinner, which means there will be a decreasing number of hospitals across the United States. I've already seen telehealth work in the home, but there is more of a global impact with telehealth and telemedicine. People in remote countries can receive care from the best clinicians around the world—from little children to adults … To really change the world and change care, telehealth is going to do that." —Nat'e Guyton, RN, MSN, CPHIMS, NE-BC, chief nurse officer, Spok

Surfacing Information for Caregivers

"I think the technology that will change medicine is surfacing information in a digestible way at the point of care for a caregiver. You will be able to direct the way that they give care by the information that you show them. And if you get the right information in front of them, they'll do the thing that they need to do. EMRs don't do that now. People will build tools which will sit on top of EMRs that will just surface the relevant data to care for a person." —Mike Phillips, MD, MBA, partner and managing director, Intermountain Ventures

AI to Assist Physician Decision-Making

I don't think we'll ever replace doctors, but I think very soon we're going to find that it will be unethical for physicians to treat complicated illnesses without the assistance of artificial intelligence that can bring in so much more information and apply it to the care regimen of a person … Part of it is bringing information that's external, [such as] new treatment regimens or new pharmaceutical results. The other side of it is bringing in data about the patient. It comes from both directions … If you don't have all the patient data, your conclusion is going to be wrong. If you don't have access to all of the published information, your conclusion would be wrong. So once again, by corollary, it will be unethical for hospitals to continue having patient matching rates as poor as they currently are. —Mark LaRow, CEO, Verato

Connectivity Platform

"[Health systems] need to develop a connectivity platform for all the innovations that are going to hit their space." — Maria Lensing, vice president, global business healthcare, AT&T

Mandy Roth is the innovations editor at HealthLeaders.


AI will have widespread impact, particularly by influencing clinical decision-making.

Telehealth and devices that facilitate the transition to home-based care will change the dynamics of healthcare delivery.

Platforms to manage data and the ability to exchange and interpret data are foundational to innovation.

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