By MICHAEL L. MILLENSON
Live and in-person once again, HIMSS 2023 attracted more than 30,000 attendees to the exhibit halls and meeting rooms of Chicago’s sprawling McCormick Place. Although no one person could possibly absorb it all, below are some harbingers of the health care future that stayed with me.
Size Doesn’t Count. Exploring the remote byways of the cavernous exhibition areas, it became clear that it’s not the size of the booth, but the impact of the product that counts. At a pavilion highlighting Turkish companies, for instance, R. Serdar Gemici stood in front of a kiosk that might fit into a walk-in closet.
The display listed an impressive roster of clients for a chronic care management platform, prompting me to stop to learn more. The smartphone user interface for “Albert,” the namesake product of Albert Health, the company Gemici co-founded and leads, immediately impressed me as one of the simplest and yet comprehensive I’d seen. (Indeed, the company website boasts of the “world’s simplest health assistant.”) Albert Health has begun working with England’s National Health Service and large pharmaceutical companies, though I found myself wondering how the name resonates in the Turkish- and Arabic-language versions the company touts.
Another far-off cluster of kiosks hosted a company called Dedalus, which promised an interoperable, whole-person care platform. A demo included a graphic showing a breadth of holistic personalization and collaboration capabilities I’d not seen elsewhere. It turns out that while Dedalus only entered the U.S. market in late 2021 – which explains why, as the nice woman showing me the presentation noted, Americans mostly haven’t heard of it – Italy-based Dedalus Global’s software and services are used in more than 40 countries by over 6,700 health care organizations.
Size Does Count. When I sat down with Dr. Jackie Gerhart, Epic’s vice president of informatics, and Seth Hain, senior vice president of research and development, at their very large and very busy booth, I had in mind Epic CEO and founder Judy Faulkner’s reputation as a tough, my-way-or-the-highway businesswoman. But Gerhart and Hain were so nice and down-to-earth, earnestly extolling the company’s culture of collaboration, that it was initially as disorienting as watching Elon Musk help a little old lady across the street. (A colleague assured me that, yes, this is actually the way many Epic employees act.)
Nonetheless, Epic remains a 500-pound gorilla, with a third of the hospital electronic health record (EHR) market. Its Cosmos platform, containing records from over 184 million patients and 7 billion encounters in all 50 states, is the largest integrated database of clinical information in the nation. The company is currently working to integrate Microsoft’s ChatGPT generative AI with Cosmos’s data visualization capabilities, which presents fascinating possibilities.
Ask around, though, and you’ll discover that not all hospitals are comfortable with Epic’s control of information. There will certainly be competitors, perhaps including the Mayo Clinic Platform.
A colleague related that many years ago big tech firms marketing their own EHRs warned prospective customers that choosing Epic meant relying on a company that might not be around very long. Instead, those competitors aren’t. Underestimating all those nice (and perhaps some not-so-nice) people at Epic would be a serious mistake.Continue reading…