HIMSS Experience 2/27/12

I got into Vegas really late Monday night. I had to delay my flight and got stuck on a Spirit Air flight from Chicago to Las Vegas. What a nightmare that airline is. I was unaware I’d be charged for a carry-on when I booked the low fare, which turned out to be only about 50% more than the carry-on cost. When they say "no frills," I don’t think most people think that means no free carry-ons.

We were supposed to get in around midnight, but had to wait an hour for the airline to replace one of the inflatable rafts that had been found to have a hole in it. I’m not sure what the risk was with a bad raft when flying from Chicago to Las Vegas, but oh well. I ended up getting to the hotel about 2:00 AM.

I spent Tuesday morning wandering around the convention hall, which was all together too big and too crowded, before co-hosting the HIStalk Sponsor Lunch at Maggiano’s. It was a fun event! Art Glasgow, CIO of Duke Hospital, spoke about access to information in the HIT industry and about what a great service HIStalk is for the industry. It was great to meet some sponsors and put some faces to names and e-mails.

Tuesday night was HIStalkapalooza, which was awesome! Jonathan Bush did not disappoint and Judy Faulkner even showed up at the end of the event.

As the sole non-anonymous member of the HIStalk family, I got a lot of the direct feedback on the HIStalk sites from sponsors and readers. It’s amazing how each and every person I spoke with said they are grateful for the service HIStalk provides. Mr. HIStalk, Inga, and Dr. Jayne have done a really incredible job and it’s amazing to hear direct from readers and sponsors that agree.

So onto the conference itself. I attended very few sessions during the week, instead spending most of my time meeting with people and browsing the booths. The exhibition hall, or more like an exhibition city, had two levels. The big boys (EMRs, analytics, payers) were all upstairs.

While some of the upstairs vendors are doing mobile, the downstairs was where the little guys were, meaning most mobile and telemed companies were down there. I was told by a vendor that the divide between upstairs and down is companies upstairs spent at least $100,000 for the booth space. Another funny thing about the exhibition space racket is the cost to vacuum. One vendor, with a 20×20 booth, spent $600 for vacuuming this week. The same vendor opted not to get a $300 trash can for the booth.

Once you made it downstairs and found yourself even further from an exit to the outside, you found the mHIMSS pavilion. It wasn’t much to look at, but I wouldn’t have expected HIMSS to put the same money Optum or Epic put into a booth.

I bumped into Edna Boone from HIMSS and was informed that HIMSS had released a new mHealth book that day, mHealth: From SmartPhones to Smart Systems. I haven’t read the book, and admittedly I had no idea it existed or was being published, but it seems to be high-level picture of what mHealth potentially can do to change the health system. I know, that told you basically nothing. As I said, I haven’t read the book. I did meet one of the authors, who was knowledgeable, but I was disappointed that neither author was clinical (MD, DO, NP, RN, etc). Maybe some of the case studies in the book are from clinicians. If anybody has feedback on the book, I’d love to hear it.

As I said above, I spent most of my time checking out booths and talking to people about different mobile initiatives. Based on who and what I saw, the following were the most exciting to me from a mobile perspective.

  • AirStrip’s partnerships and vision for the future. Leading up to HIMSS, AirStrip announced partnerships with Qualcomm (+ investment), HCA (+ investment), and Diversinet. The key strategies here were home monitoring, scale, security, and a push towards federal customers. AirStrip also announced AirStrip Patient Monitoring, an extension of its partnership with GE to pull data from GE’s CareScape Gateway. While GE is the exclusive reseller of AirStrip’s mobile platform, AirStrip is integrating with additional vendors and will sell directly to hospitals in those cases. What impressed me more was the tie back to GE systems so that clinicians can remotely confirm having read an EKG using AirStrip’s platform, making it more than a monitoring tool. I’m waiting for AirStrip to start offering mobile EMR views.

  • Practice Fusion’s iPad EMR prototype. I got to use it and was very impressed with the design and approach to mobile. The app strips out anything not essential to physicians seeing patients and charting encounters. Basically the iPad app is not simply a mobile version of the EMR — it is mobile clinical tool specific to patient encounters. The rest of the functionality of Practice Fusion (scheduling, PM, etc,) is left to the Web/desktop version. The app itself flows like the Twitter iPad app, with expanding and collapsing frames all built specifically for touch experience.
  • PatientSafe’s coming out. I’d heard of PatientSafe Solutions several years ago, but its been hard to tell what type of uptake it’s gotten. It offers a mobile (iPod Touch) platform called Patient Touch with secure and washable case from Frog Designs that extends the battery life. The platform does clinical communication, barcode scanning, and a host of other point-of-care functions. Apparently Patient Touch is in place in 12 hospitals, but the company claims it will be live in 60 hospitals by next quarter. Not surprisingly the company plans to use its place as the mobile platform at the point of care to deliver additional apps and services. Everybody wants their own App Store these days.
  • iTriage leading mobile patient engagement. I was anxious to meet with iTriage to see where things are going post-Aetna acquisition. Apparently iTriage will continue to operate as its own entity, but with the company name officially changed from Healthagen, LLC to iTriage, LLC. The company plans to expand its enterprise-based scheduling service and will also expand into being a personal health platform. The objective is to collect data from patients, personalize alerts and messaging, and create social connectivity between users. These are obviously lofty goals, but with Aetna’s backing, both financial and data, I’d give iTriage the nod over upstarts like RunKeeper.
  • Tonic Health and in-facility patient engagement. Raise your hand if you’ve heard of this company? I’d only heard of it because one of its designers e-mailed me recently and I was impressed with his work. That’s why I took the meeting with the CEO and founder. The company is, for lack of a better term, gamifying the patient registration and forms completion process. While not the most glamorous area of healthcare, there are several things I like about the approach of engaging users in their health with mobile tools at the point of care, basically when you have them captive. I’m going to devote more time to this in another post, but this was one of the more exciting trends I saw at HIMSS.
  • Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman sound bite. I interviewed Mr. Tullman about AllScripts mobile and he did a very nice job of demoing some of the key features of his EMR iPad app. His quote was better, though. He told me that, "The mobile EMR experience is going to drive the entire EMR industry." I assume what he meant is that EMR companies, like Apple is doing with its mobile devices, will learn about user experience and modify Web and desktop applications based on mobile usage and experience. If that actually happens — which is years off if it happens at all — it would be a good day for doctors. Additionally, I asked Glen about the mHealth Summit and the HIMSS acquisition of the event. He told me that Allscripts would likely be there next December, paying HIMSS back some of its cost to buy the Summit with exhibition fees (he didn’t mention the second part.)

My overall impressions were that mobile is still getting a lot of attention, but I’m reporting on prototypes and relatively small uptake, so we’re still learning and in need of more data. I’m very glad the event is leaving Vegas and will be in New Orleans next year, which happens to be one of my favorite places. Hope to see you all there.

In case you thought my luck with travel was only on the way out to Vegas, my flight home was delayed and I didn’t get in until 1 :00 AM. It was snowing and freezing and I had to wait 20 minutes for a cab. I had meetings the next morning, so I spent the weekend recovering.

Travis Good is an MD/MBA involved with health IT startups. More about me.

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