HIMSS 2019 showcased the transformation of healthcare and the rise of the technology giants

by Damon Auer

The jury is in. Artificial intelligence and the consumerization of care are here to stay. In the week before the 2019 HIMSS meeting, I wrote a blog predicting what trends and technologies we could expect to see at the big show. The conference itself didn’t disappoint and just about everything I predicted was accurate.

Personalized care was everywhere. From companies selling hospital beds to those selling software, the theme was prominent, reminiscent of the ubiquitous presence of “population health” in the last few years.

As I predicted in my pre-HIMSS blog, traditional electronic medical records (EMR) companies are rebranding themselves as platform solutions companies. Part of that journey is an awareness that EMR-only companies face consolidation, and part is a realization that the industry increasingly is looking to leverage digital capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI).

But one notable development I didn’t write about was the prominence of the technology giants at this year’s meeting. Google Cloud, Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (AWS) were such enormous presences that they drew attention away from many of the smaller players. This is quite a sudden development; although Microsoft has been a prominent exhibitor at the show for years, I only noticed AWS and Google Cloud at HIMSS for the first time last year — you had to go looking for them … but not anymore.

Their presence and the growing focus on the consumerization of healthcare are indicative of developments that have been taking place across the industry in the past year or two.

A changing environment

It’s fair to say that HIMSS is a microcosm of the changing healthcare environment and what we can expect to take place across the industry in the next few years.

First, the big techs will accelerate the consumerization of care and the rise of data about the individual to accelerate the Digital Me. That’s simply because the big techs make all this much easier for consumers. For example, Google Cloud has more information on the Digital Me than just about any company, with AWS not far behind. These tech giants have long been developing the tools that consumers use day-to-day, so patient centricity is in their DNA.

Also, the big tech companies have more horsepower when it comes to digital technologies such as AI and machine learning.

Whether it’s the newer entrants to healthcare or those that have been in the business for a while, the change in direction to consumerization, personalized care and digitization is rapid. And no one wants to be left behind. In fact, after the conference, as we were going through the list of visitors to our booth, we came across one that surprised us: a large U.S. bank. The first thought I had was, what is it doing at HIMSS? But its presence puts an exclamation mark on how rapidly this industry is transforming.

Healthcare is witnessing an era of technology innovation combined with changes in the economic model to value-based care and consumerism. That also requires innovations in finance and transparency, including the rise of blockchain.

We’re seeing that transformation take place in the healthcare industry itself, such as the merger between CVS and Aetna. The transformation will likely lead to consolidation between the providers and payers — to what has been dubbed the “payvider.” And within 10 years we’re unlikely to find a standalone community hospital of any scale in the United States.

The change has been so dramatic that I would go so far as to say that the healthcare industry will take itself apart and remake itself over the next 8 to 10 years. This is an industry that represents about 20 percent of the U.S. economy, so it’s transformation will be felt everywhere. And no major industry wants to be left out of that transformation. Media and entertainment, supply chain and, as we’ve seen from HIMSS visitors, financial institutions, are all eager to play a part in that transformation.

As the biggest global health technology meeting, HIMSS brings many of us together from across the world. Stay tuned for the next post-HIMSS blog from my colleague David Pare, chief technology officer, Healthcare and Life Sciences for DXC Australia-New Zealand.


Damon-Auer-headshotDamon Auer is a vice president with DXC’s Healthcare and Life Sciences group. He is a 20-year technology and consulting services executive specializing in helping health and life sciences organizations achieve business performance improvements. With a passion for driving the personalization of care, he was instrumental in the development of DXC Health360.

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