We have just closed the door on another Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Annual Conference, and while it was certainly good to be back to “normal” given the past two years, it was also interesting to see how similar the experience was to past events. Yes, there were COVID precautions. Every attendee had to present proof of vaccination to attend, which increased check-in time to pick up your badge and conference materials. And there was an ample supply of hand sanitizer everywhere. However, beyond those reminders that we’re still living with COVID, and a smaller turnout than in past years, much else seemed the same. It was a packed event with five days of keynote presentations, hundreds of educational sessions and a large exhibit hall (950 exhibitors – also smaller than previous years). Eight specialty pavilions featured everything from cybersecurity to interoperability to technology disrupters. In addition to the technology-centric topics, fascinating discussions around healthcare equity, healthcare worker fatigue/workforce sustainability and other key areas where COVID has illuminated cracks in the foundation, represented a lever for change.
HIMSS took place in Orlando, Florida during the week of March 14 to 18, and the theme of the event was Reimaging Health. This spoke to the rapid advance of digital technologies over the past 24 months, emerging to manage the surge of patients during the pandemic, as well as platforms that enable patients to engage with their care providers in new and different ways, often referred to as the digital front door. And to that point, many of the vendors – as well as a number of the educational sessions – focused on those technologies. Examples include virtual care, which may involve remote patient monitoring using a variety of medical devices that share diagnostic data with a patients’ provider, or using telehealth to conduct an encounter between a patient and his/her physician. And coming home from the first major conference I’ve attended in two years, I had to utilize this technology, as I came down with a nasty cold/flu, and took advantage of the telehealth option with my physician. Luckily I tested negative for COVID, but evidently we can still get sick the good old fashioned way.
In addition, the term digital transformation has found its way into healthcare, as hospitals and other care providers seek to reinvent how they deliver care, manage processes around that care and run their businesses to support care operations. According to the Accenture Digital Health Technology Vision 2021, digital transformation is on the rise, with just over 80% of healthcare executives surveyed stating that their organizations are accelerating their digital transformation objectives.
Digital transformation is a subject that Konica Minolta has particular expertise in delivering – whether by helping customers through the implementation of digital solutions to automate legacy and manually-driven processes, reducing cost and improving efficiency or introducing innovative technologies to advance specific initiatives in their business to address clinical and administrative workflows.
The use of robotic process automation (RPA) has continued to grow in healthcare, and was evident throughout the week at HIMSS. During the height of the pandemic, RPA was used to enhance and enable chatbots to more effectively manage patient flow into emergency departments. This was done by automating the triage process and making it an online, virtual experience. On the administrative side, it is being used to offset tedious manual processes required to look up benefit verification on payer websites. These use cases are just two of the many potential applications for RPA in healthcare, and Konica Minolta’s Intelligent Information Management services are available to consult with healthcare providers to identify areas of need that may be helped through this technology.
Inflation, staffing challenges and the largely manual nature of healthcare administrative workflow were also topics of interest at HIMSS. According to the Harvard Business Review, 3.6% additional healthcare workers resigned from their positions in 2021 compared to 2020. And the administrative costs of healthcare continue to rise. As reported in a 2019 report compiled by the Center of American Progress (CAP), $496 billion was spent on billing and insurance-related costs in the U.S. Added to this, the persistent specter of disconnected IT systems across the care continuum all lead to a particularly problematic environment for healthcare facilities managing large volumes of inbound and outbound patient referrals. These referrals are often exchanged via fax, and the data must then be entered into the EHR manually – typically done by intake staff – to update/create the patient record, schedule the procedure or admission and close the referral. Various companies are seeking to intervene in this process and automating various components of the workflow, and some were on display at HIMSS.
Konica Minolta has been developing solutions over the past 24 months which will enable our customers to automate this process by leveraging AI-enhanced OCR/ICR and advanced capture and workflow modeling to extract meaningful data from an inbound unstructured fax document. Next, the platform creates an EHR-friendly file format using healthcare-industry integration and interoperability standards that may be used to populate discrete data fields in the EHR, thereby expediting admissions or procedure scheduling and/or reducing referral leakage. This reduces time spent by intake staff manually working these referrals, and further, it provides for additional workflow capabilities. We refer to this as the Konica Minolta Connected Care Platform.
In 2023 HIMSS will be returning to my hometown, Chicago, for the first time in eight years. It will be interesting to see the state of healthcare IT after what we hope is end of the pandemic, and how the technologies that have taken root over the past couple of years have impacted healthcare provider organizations, and more importantly, patients. See you all at HIMSS ’23.
Photo caption: The author poses with panelists of the HIMSS keynote presentation hosted by Konica Minolta. L to R: Scott Pelley, Correspondent/Anchor, 60 Minutes; Diane Swonk, Economist; Tamara Sunbal, MD; Joe Cisna, Director, Healthcare Solutions, Konica Minolta. Not pictured: Johnny Taylor, President and CEO of the Society for Human Resources.