I’m clearly not in the studio this week. In fact, I am in Las Vegas at HIMSS, the largest healthcare tech conference. We had around 20,000 executives here live and thousands more online. This was the largest post-pandemic business conference focused on digital transformation. This was also one of the first times so many businesses came together to share how they dealt with the crisis, what they learned from it, and what technologies helped them succeed. More importantly, what they will do differently going forward. While the primary topic was healthcare, there were great insights that any industry can use. Here are a few that stood out for me.
I’m clearly not in the studio this week. In fact, I am in Las Vegas at HIMSS, the largest healthcare tech conference. We had around 20,000 executives here live and thousands more online. This was the largest post-pandemic business conference focused on digital transformation. This was also one of the first times so many businesses came together to share how they dealt with the crisis, what they learned from it, and what technologies helped them succeed. More importantly, what they will do differently going forward. While the primary topic was healthcare, there were great insights that any industry can use. Here are a few that stood out for me
What made this conference special for me was this. For the first time, thousands of businesses came together and compared their pandemic learnings and post-crisis plans. During the pandemic, every business hunkered down and figured out ways to keep their operations running, serve their customers and come up with new ways of doing things when the old ways stopped working. This week companies were learning from each other, basically crowdsourcing their digital future.
There were obviously a lot of healthcare industry topics covered like the expanding telehealth solutions, the emergence of AI in all areas of patient care, the security of digital patient records, blockchains in healthcare, and so on.
For the purpose of this channel though I gathered a few generic themes that apply to any industry or digital effort. There were a number of discussions that kept coming up in dozens of meetings and conversations.
1) Digital Speed and Scale
We talk a lot about the importance of speed in digital transformation in this channel. This came up a lot this week. Healthcare is a very risk-averse industry when it comes to innovation. And rightfully so, when lives are at stake. But even healthcare experienced the massive acceleration of digital programs in the crisis and businesses realized that it actually helped with patient outcomes and profitability. Many got excited about the power and impact of moving transformations so much faster. The question is now this. Can companies and industries retain their newfound velocity? Is the new model of rapid decision-making and risk-taking sustainable? How much better could healthcare be if we could keep moving at this new speed? How much better could any business be if we kept trusting the technologies and our IT teams to deliver.
2) Augmenting Workforce with AI, automation
In healthcare, there is a big concern about burnout in the ranks of doctors, nurses, and support staff. The pandemic amplified these issues. And this is true in many industries. Remote work blurred the line between work and family and many in the conference reported excessive work hours. There were many discussions about deploying digital innovation like AI, automation, and machine learning to maximize the time spent on job #1 - patient care.
But isn’t that true for any industry? Any time away from customers is potential revenue lost or lower customer satisfaction. Shouldn’t we all be maximizing customer-facing time and automate the rest? All the competition is now moving to customer touchpoints and the digital experience of those interactions.
Patients or Customers expect more than just interaction on multiple digital channels like chat and video. That is now table stakes. They not only want their needs met, but they also want those needs anticipated.
As patient and customer experience moves more digital, there is an increased frequency of data breaches and disruptions due to ransomware. Healthcare privacy is highly regulated but the discussions went even beyond that. How can digital technologies help us strike the right balance between two key forces? On one hand, storing as much data as we can to feed AI and machine learning algorithms to identify patterns for everything from diagnosing disease to anticipating customer needs and addressing supply chain disruptions. For that the more data the better.
On the other hand, there were arguments about storing the minimal amount of personal data needed to perform business transactions to minimize data breaches. Clearly, these two forces are in conflict and a variety of technologies were introduced to mitigate them.
Speaking of a multitude of technologies - the healthcare industry and beyond is plagued with a multitude of digital technologies that simply do not speak to each other. As digital innovation accelerates it often creates silos of systems that do not work well together. There were discussions of common standards, better connectivity, and more automation to ensure data can flow seamlessly between all parts of the business. Interoperability may be the biggest tech problem in healthcare and definitely a big issue for many industries. It can significantly slow down digital innovation.
5) Anticipating Disruption
The last topic I noted was this. Many executives asked the question: How can we make sure the next crisis does not catch us off guard. Can AI help us anticipate patterns of disruption? How can we make sure our business processes can be changed on the fly. Can we reconfigure our workforce so remote, hybrid, and on-site are equally efficient?
As you can tell, anticipating the future presented more questions than answers. But it’s a big step forward. Especially for a risk-averse industry like healthcare that actually learned to live with higher risk. And to trust that when in a crisis mode, digital tools can not only save a business but help it get ahead.