As I fly home from HIMSS15 (literally), I’ve been thinking how to summarize my annual visit to the mecca of healthcare IT conferences we know as HIMSS. I’ve seen a bunch of numbers around attendance and exhibitors and I believe they’re somewhere around 43,000 attendees and 1300 exhibitors. It definitely felt that massive. The interest in using technology to improve healthcare has never been higher. This shouldn’t be a surprise for anyone. When I look at the path forward for healthcare, every single scenario has technology playing a massive role.
With that in mind, I think that the healthcare IT world is experiencing a massive war between a large number of competing interests. Many of those interests are deeply entrenched in what they’ve been doing for seemingly ever. Some of these companies are really trying to dig in and continue to enjoy the high ground that they’ve enjoyed for many years. This includes vendors at HIMSS, but also many large and small healthcare organizations (the small entrenched healthcare organizations weren’t likely at HIMSS though) who enjoyed the status quo.
The problem with this battlefield is that they’re battling against a massive shift in reimbursement model. They can try and stay entrenched, but the shift in healthcare business model is going to absolutely force them to change. This is not a question of if, but when. This doesn’t keep these organizations from bombing away as they resist the changes.
If you’re a healthcare startup company entering the battlefield (to continue the analogy), you’re out in the open and absolutely vulnerable. You’re very rarely the target of this major entrenched players, but sometimes you get impacted by collateral damage. As the various organizations throw bombs at each other you have to work hard to avoid getting in their way. This is a tricky challenge.
Even more challenging to these startup companies is they don’t have a way to access many of the entrenched companies so they can work together around a common vision. Most of the startups would love to work with the entrenched healthcare companies, but they don’t even have a way to start the conversation.
The mid size healthcare IT companies are even more interesting. They’ve started to carve a space for them in the battle and many of the entrenched healthcare IT vendors are scared at what this means for them. They’re using every means possible to disrupt the competition. At HIMSS I saw the scars from many of these battles.
Certainly this description is true of many industries. Welcome to economic competition and capitalism. Although, this year at HIMSS I found the battle to be much more intense. In the past couple years meaningful use opened up new territories to be “conquered.” There was enough “land” to go around that companies were often working to capture new territories as opposed to battling their competitors for the same opportunities. That’s why I think we’re in a very different market today versus the past couple years.
The great thing is that in periods of turmoil often comes the most amazing innovations. I believe that’s what we’re going to see over the next couple years. Although, I predict that most of these innovations are going to come from places we don’t expect. It’s just too hard for companies to innovate themselves out of business. There are a few exceptions in history and we might see a few exceptions in healthcare. However, my bet is on the most successful companies being those that choose to obliterate as opposed to automate.
What’s most exciting to me is that healthcare organizations and patients seem to be ready for change. There are varying degrees of readiness, but I believe I’ve seen a groundswell of change that’s coming for healthcare. As a blogger this of course has me excited, but as a patient it has me excited as well.
What were your thoughts of HIMSS 2015? What do you think of the analogy?
While the battle is on in healthcare IT, the best part of HIMSS is always the people. Every industry has some bad apples, but for the most part I’m always deeply impacted by the good nature of so many people I meet at HIMSS. They are sincere in their efforts to try and improve healthcare for good. We certainly have our challenges in healthcare, but similar to what George Bush said in his keynote, I’m optimistic that the good people in healthcare will be able to produce amazing results. The best days of healthcare are not behind us, but are ahead of us.