With HIMSS15 in full swing, I finally got my bearings for navigating around the enormous McCormick Place. I noticed a majority of attendees had Fitbits and wearables of the like connecting to the free Wi-Fi. There were likely more than 80,000 devices on the wireless network – that is a lot of connected devices! This theme carries directly into hospitals; clinicians can have upwards of 3, 4, even 5 devices on them at any given time and guests are accessing the Wi-Fi with smartphones, tablets, laptops and many others. Day three at HIMSS, I was able to sit in on three notable sessions that relate directly to this exponential growth and need for connectivity in healthcare. They highlighted all of the good, the bad and the ugly reality surrounding the future of connected devices in hospitals, and just how critical a role the network infrastructure plays in keeping these devices safely connected.
My morning started off with speaker Harry Wang, director of health & mobile product research at Parks Associates. His session was based on the latest research drawn from consumer and industry analysis on technology’s impact on consumer/care provider engagement efforts. He delved into the strategies that care providers and entrepreneurs can implement to accomplish their “triple aim” – to reduce cost, improve quality, and offer convenient access. Harry stated that quality in the healthcare industry can be related to successful reporting, but for the patient users, it means heightened engagement and entertaining them more. He noted that conventional touch points are truly engaging only 1% of the time; communication is too often one-way, provider-centric and purely reactive. The future of new care touch points promises 99% engagement and highly interactive customer-centric communication that is far more proactive towards engaging patients.
The question that Harry proposed was, “How can you improve engagement levels with users and raise the user experience?” One of the key takeaways I had from the research was in regards to who is adapting to connected health devices: “healthy engaged” and “young and indifferent” made up the early adapter curve on the scale, and totaled 50% of connected consumers. The concerning part is the other side of the curve, consisting of “challenged, but mindfully healthy” and “in denial”. How can this side of the scale be influenced, engaged and motivated? The most important thing is that it’s not about how many devices someone has. At the end of the day, what matters most is how many times a patient logs into their applications to track their health. Harry urged us to move towards customer-centric care and highlighted these requirements:
- Free data from devices and proprietary platforms
- Provide timely, contextually relevant, actionable insights
- Design for the diversity of needs amongst user groups
- Empower consumers to be their own best advocate
That last point is my favorite as I’ve been a slacker at times with my own fitness, due to a lack of motivation. If we can get to a state where customer-centric care truly rises and can motivate, empower and encourage patients to leverage wearables and other connected devices to power a healthy lifestyle, healthcare will change forever.
Communications can be difficult in the hectic environment of an emergency department. From Yale New Haven Hospital, Ed Fisher, vice president and CTO took the podium next to Allen Hsiao, associate chief medical information officer. Using smartphone technology, Yale New Haven Hospital streamlined its clinical communications, improving clinical workflow and tying clinicians closer to the patient as well as others involved in care.
Ed began by explaining an experience he once had as the patient of an emergency room, noticing holsters that were filled with various devices for multiple means of communication worn by staff. That is where the realization dawned that clinicians need a single device, single application, and single sign-on solution. Ed outlined “must-haves” for these devices, which include texting, voice/VoIP, and cellular capabilities. “Love-to-haves” include patient data, lab results, and a directory of staff on hand. The capabilities that are “dreaming-to-haves” include real-time presence, EMR integration, and directed alerting. This all needs to be on one device, one application, highly secure with single sign-on, but how do we go about doing that?
Allen explained some of the main communication challenges they were facing, which included inefficiency, imperfect group communication with noisy overhead paging, interruption-based workflows where staff would have to leave patients to take a call, and outlined that the hardest thing for a physician to do is to get a hold of another physician. They needed an efficient one-to-one communication device that allowed effective group communication, which led to improved clinical workflows. All of this was done through embracing smartphone technology in the emergency department.
The most integral piece is working network connectivity to the application – this has to be ensured. Yale New Haven Hospital called in technical consultants to ensure that the network was healthy enough to support this initiative. He stressed the critical point that, “The network infrastructure and team is so important because when a doctor is on a call for emergency surgery, we cannot afford to let that call drop.”
My afternoon session on day 3 at HIMSS15 was with Chief Information Security Officer at the University of Vermont Medical Center Heather Roszkowski. From the start, Heather highlighted the question: why are cyber threats important to healthcare? Breach prevention and protecting the system landed high on the list, but number one comes down to patient safety. In a world of choices, if a patient sees your hospital on the news for an information security breach, they will most likely look for another hospital. Clinicians use EMRs to make life-changing decisions so if someone hacks an EMR and alters information, that could have a huge impact on treating the patient.
Heather went into what we think the threats are currently, including Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, phishing, and hackers, but the real list includes far more. Hospitals have tons of information, not just patient information. You will never know what hackers are truly after until it’s too late; hospitals harness information like credit card data, intellectual property and financial information.
There are inherent security risks with mobile and medical devices. Roszkowski said that IT never wants to be the “no” people, but this is difficult with all of the security logistics that need to be accounted for with each device allowed on the hospital network. Her question to the audience was, “How quickly can you react?” The average number days before organizations know they have been hacked is 400. What is your organization doing when something suspicious happens?
Investing in a tool like Purview can enable views of all devices accessing the network, including when they are accessing the network, and what applications they are using. Heather insists on looking back monthly, even weekly, because security risks change so rapidly on the network and new issues arise. Securing the network properly and taking a holistic view of who/what is accessing your hospital’s network will save lives, along with highly-valuable patient and hospital information. Now is the time to be proactive, not reactive.