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The big takeaways from this year’s HIMSS conference

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Rajan Kohli, CEO of CitiusTech, shares his thoughts on the health care technology show

Rajan Kohli: ©CitiusTech

Rajan Kohli: ©CitiusTech

The annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society convention is a massive gathering of tech companies, health care organizations, government agencies, and technology experts. New products are released, plans are announced, and insights are shared through hundreds of educational sessions throughout the week-long event.

The HIMSS show is also the best place to see where technology in health care is trending.

Medical Economics spoke with Rajan Kohli, CEO, CitiusTech, about this year’s show in Orlando and what emerging themes he saw. (Editor’s note: The transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.)

Medical Economics: Overall, what were some of the big themes that you saw this year?

Rajan Kohli: It was a fantastic HIMSS event. I've been to Davos a few times, and I think for the health care business, this is the Davos for us. If I look at broad themes, three themes emerge: Of course, generative AI was a very high theme. Another theme, and it could be maybe because of some of the recent challenges in health care, but cybersecurity sort of emerged. Third, obviously, that was there last year, but much more present this year, was connected care, remote patient care, and that sort of thing was in various displays and elements that were in various booths. I would say these were the three big themes.

Medical Economics: At last year's conference, it seemed like a lot of the AI was either aspirational or had just launched. It was brand new, there wasn't a good feel for how well it was going to perform in the field. What were your thoughts this year? Did it seem like AI was a little more entrenched, and maybe a little more proven, than it has been in the past?

Kohli: Yeah, definitely. I think last year, AI was splashed all over all over the buildings. This year, you didn't see so much in the buildings, but in the products and displays. It was far more embedded. So I would say, if you look at the AI journey, the first of the use cases that you're beginning to see as part of the demos are either around summarization, where you're summarizing more complex information or information coming from multiple sources into one note. Or they are around ambient listening, where, again, you're providing more efficiency to a doctor. You're taking their notes and sort of summarizing them into nice notes that can be utilized. I think you're beginning to see where AI can now play more of a role in decision support, especially where you're combining multiple sources of data, multiple types of data -- not just digital data -- but including notes from doctors. I would definitely agree with you that it's moved from ambition into more concrete roadmaps, where certain things are going live now and certain things hopefully by the next HIMSS conference will be more alive and kicking.

Medical Economics: Were there any technologies that you saw that were just like, “Wow, that's really cool. I haven't seen anything quite like that before.” Was there anything that really caught your eye this year?

Kohli: I think one of the best demos I saw was from Nuance. I had seen the ambient listening demo last year, but it was much more involved now where it's listening to the entire conversation. But then you could just say, “hey, just talk about this.” All the notes only refer to the portion which talks about this clinical diagnostic and then everything else evaporates. Then the note is summarized into one area, because you may have like 10 minutes of conversation, including talking about football or general health, but then the clinical notes have to be about a clinical diagnostic and the way it was able to do that stands out.

Medical Economics: Well, I know that technology is really of interest to doctors because so many doctors spend so much time updating notes, cleaning up notes, writing notes, and AI has so much potential there to really help them get that information in the system and get the parts they need back out, so that's very exciting.

Kohli: If you talk to the providers, they'll say their biggest pain this year has been just the cost of staff, like nurses and other support staff, and it’s not just the cost, but the lack of availability. So that's why I feel like AI is going to be big, and then that's probably what is also driving the virtual assistant or virtual caretaker. So it will be ambient listening or virtual support for doctors, but similarly virtual assistant or virtual provider for all the connected care users. That also will be a big, big thing.

Medical Economics: Were the Change Healthcare people there, and if so, were they hiding under the table?

Kohli: I did not see them, but you know, this issue is actually leading to a lot of work for all CIOs and boards, because they are being asked questions to ensure that their infrastructures are secure. So a lot of CIOs that I spoke with, they have been doing a lot more work in this space. And that's why I think the cybersecurity theme sort of came up, which I did not see that much last year, to be honest.

Medical Economics: Were there any big innovations in cybersecurity, anything you saw that was kind of a game changer?

Kohli: I wouldn't say it is innovative, but I think the use of AI, because of the amount of data coming from different sources and how you can take the best action. How can you automate the next best action and it will decide how fast you can respond and how secure your infrastructure is. And that's where I think AI has a big role to play. And, you know, one of the big weak spots is in all these connected care remote devices. They are far easier [to hack] compared to going through a data center, which is obviously far more secure.

Medical Economics: I know last year that the “hospital at home” or “care at home” was a big theme. I guess talk a little bit about what you saw in that area--was that still a big point of emphasis for a lot of companies?

Kohli: Yeah, the areas that I saw, integration of data into decision support, that was much more obvious this year, and then the virtual assistants – there is also integration of data back into the app from the virtual assistant for patients. Because now, if you have to nudge somebody to ensure they take the medicine on time, now you're collecting data, and then how is that data integrated with the app to nudge the patient? I think that ecosystem is far more robust now.

Medical Economics: Looking at what you saw at the show and your knowledge of the industry, how do you see a physician's job changing in the coming years with all this technology? How is it going to be different than it is today?

Kohli: I would say number one, they will have the time to be more human. I read somewhere that generative AI is actually more human many times than people because people don't have time. I think a lot of the innovation that is going in is to provide doctors with more time to do what they really want to do. Whether it's ambient listening, note summarization -- all of this effort is to provide quality time back to the physician. So when I say they'll have more quality time, it’s where they can be more empathetic to the patient. Second, I think quality of decision support will improve. People will still make the final decision, but there will be contextual search. When the contextual search can be enriched by the challenges that the person is facing, the real data that is flowing in through connected care into that decision support system, the quality of decision support can significantly improve the quality of data and the sources of data that can get integrated. A human brain cannot integrate so many of them. But once the options are presented, then the human brain can choose the right options. So certainly the quality of this data from multiple sources enriches the decision-support system. I think the quality of decisions that a physician will make will improve because of this variety of integration from multiple sources of this data. We are far from a virtual doctor, or I don't think anybody is thinking of decision-making in this space will be automated anytime soon. You will have a human involved. But it's just the time and the quality of decisions will improve.

Medical Economics: I know that's a concern, especially for primary care doctors -- am I going to be replaced by AI? From what you're saying, it sounds like their jobs safe.

Kohli: I have kids. So I'm thinking, well, the physical comfort that a primary care physician provides and the empathy that doctor provides, it'll be hard to replace that. And I think the world is actually moving to those roles where there is an equal weight of left brain and right brain. So yeah, they may have a slightly different approach to how primary care is provided and how a physician deals with it, because they will have so much of the time that they use in making notes and administrative tasks, that should go away so that more care time is provided.

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