One MD Executive Peers Forward Towards HIMSS19: A Rapid Acceleration of Tools Capability?

Feb. 10, 2019
Scott Weingarten, M.D., of Premier Inc. and Cedars-Sinai Health, sees health information technology on the verge of major breakthroughs in usability and capabilities, as HIMSS19 kicks off in Orlando

As HIMSS19 kicks off this week in Orlando, tens of thousands of healthcare and healthcare IT leaders will be converging on the Orange County Convention Center, to share with one another, discuss, and explore every possible theme around the current landscape of healthcare policy, operations, and information technology. What might attendees anticipate seeing, when it comes to technological solutions and  innovations? Healthcare Innovation Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland spoke late last week with Scott Weingarten, M.D., who has been a leader in the industry for years. Dr. Weingarten, who has had a professional affiliation with Cedars-Sinai Health in Los Angeles for 25 years, and who continues in that organization as a consultant to that health system’s CEO, is also the CEO of Stanson Health, a software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based provider of clinical decision support (CDS) tools that are integrated directly into the electronic health record (EHR) workflow, and which was acquired by the Charlotte-based Premier Inc. late last year. Dr. Weingarten will be attending HIMSS19, and will be speaking on Tuesday, Feb. 12 in Session #3, “How Embedding Care Standards into the EHR Empowers Clinical Variation Reduction.” Dr. Weingarten spoke with Healthcare Innovation Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland about what attendees might anticipate at HIMSS19. Below are excerpts from their interview.

Looking forward to HIMSS19, what do you anticipate seeing and hearing this year, in presentations, in discussions, on the exhibit floor?

How can technology enable us to deliver better quality and less-costly care? I know there are many things that are critical, like patient experience and revenue cycle management. But I’ve really been focused on technology to improve quality and safety and reduce the cost of care. And as I look at that world, there’s a lot going on, but I think this field is about to get a lot better. We’re going to be much more effective in our ability to influence providers at the point of care, which will save lives, reduce morbidity and reduce costs. And part of it is the ability to read the electronic health record in real time. We’ve been working on reading freetext, as have others. But being able to do that better, including through leveraging machine learning and AI [artificial intelligence]—that will become a better process. Just as when I go on Amazon to buy a book, it [Amazon, the company] gets to know me, and makes suggestions. And often, I buy what they tell me to buy. So it’s really bringing in the same kinds of AI capabilities that have been used outside healthcare, and bringing them into healthcare. The difference is—I’m a big fan of Amazon—when they get it right, I buy another book, whereas in HC, it will save lives.

It seems that an acceleration about to happen around apps and interoperability. Do you think the industry is getting closer to what’s important?

I think that’s right. In the beginning, it was about getting the docs to stop typing, and making it easier for them to type their notes in the EHR. That seemed to be the focus for a decade or more. And now, in terms of what’s important, it all comes down to the patient. And it seems like we’re getting beyond, Doctor, you need to type.

Given all that, what do you think we might see at HIMSS19?

I think we’ll see a lot more around AI, machine learning, natural language processing, and natural language understanding. I’ve been very passionate about this—at HIMSS18, Eric Schmidt of Google gave a keynote that I actually loved, around the potential of such technologies as ambient listening devices, etc.—so that when I see my doctor, rather than my doctor typing the whole time, the doctor looks at me, and determines what’s important, and records the conversation in real time, and provides guidance for me as a patient. And then it gives me advice—hey, Scott, you should exercise more, etc., whatever the advice is. That’s how I interpreted his keynote; and I think this year, you’ll see a lot more effort to climb the mountain; and you’ll see a lot of companies putting effort into that area. So I think we’ll see the beginning of progress towards those goals, including both less typing, and more automated guidance. I think it’s bigger than voice recognition; you type less, but it understands what’s in the note, and gives us information that’s important, gives the provider information that’s important, and gives the patient information important to the patient.

Everything in healthcare IT is clearer than it was 15 or 10 years ago, though, given the costs that are imperiling the U.S. healthcare system. In that sense, the policy and payment trajectory that is fueling IT innovation now is pretty clear, correct?

Yes, that’s right. The urgency to make IT right, to the benefit of patients and to the healthcare system, is more important than ever.