The buzz at HIMSS '24? 6 takeaways

"Everyone's talking about AI."

That was a major takeaway from this week's HIMSS 2024 conference in Orlando, Fla., where it was difficult to go long without someone bringing up artificial intelligence.

But as Gary Fritz, chief of applications at Palo Alto, Calif.-based Stanford Health Care, explained to Becker's: HIMSS usually delves into "crest-of-the-wave conversations."

"Years ago, it was analytics, telehealth — and you get two years of those," he said. "So now we're in that AI wave, which will take a long time, by the way."

While high-level discussions took place around AI safety and guidelines, healthcare leaders were often more interested in how the technology is actually being used by hospitals and health systems. Here are six highlights from the annual health IT conference:

1. Companies from Oracle Health to Google revealed their latest healthcare generative AI offerings at HIMSS, and Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare shared early results of a new collaboration with the Big Tech firm. Seventy-nine emergency room physicians at four HCA hospitals have used a clinical documentation tool from Augmedix for which Google's large language model creates a visit summary. The reaction from clinicians has been "generally pretty positive," Vikesh Tahiliani, MD, HCA's vice president of care transformation and innovation, said at a panel. "They're definitely getting time back in their day, some of them more than an hour as a net positive." In talking about how AI and technology could further transform care, he added: "We're just at the beginning."

2. Stanford Health Care announced this week it would be deploying the DAX co-pilot clinical documentation platform from Microsoft's Nuance, powered by — what else — AI, across the organization. Other healthcare leaders were excited about the tool's potential for saving physicians loads of time while allowing them to focus more on the actual practice of medicine — while noting that the technology is expensive and will require more buy-in from senior leaders. "I hesitate to go too strongly because I'm not super 'shiny object', but the docs who are on this ambient documentation say, 'Absolutely, it is a game changer for me — and do not take it away,'" Ann Cappellari, MD, chief medical information officer of St. Louis-based SSM Health, told Becker's. "They point their finger at me and say, 'Do not take this away!"

3. To alleviate fears about healthcare AI, humans must remain "on top" of the technology, Michael Pencina, PhD, chief data scientist at Durham N.C.-based Duke Health, said in a session. "People say, human in the loop — I reject that notion," he said. "With a human in the loop, I'm envisioning this electric circuit with different nodes, and humans somewhere and machines somewhere. What happens when you do that? Well, the machine takes hold of what's happening and they're going to eliminate the weakest node. Who is the weakest node? Humans. We don't want that — so humans on top."

4. "Hospital at home" was a hot topic of conversation with health systems such as Charlotte, N.C.-based Atrium Health and Somerville, Mass.-based Mass General Brigham explaining why they were dedicated to the care model and technology vendors such as Best Buy Health showcasing their latest at-home-care solutions. "We're all in," said Stephen Dorner, MD, chief clinical and innovation officer of Mass General Brigham Healthcare at Home. "We're committed that this is the best way for us to deliver care and will advocate and continue to support ways that make it possible. I think it's how patients want care too."

5. With the Change Healthcare ransomware attack still having ripple effects, cybersecurity was front of mind for many executives. The breadth of the attack — the largest to ever hit the industry, affecting healthcare providers far and wide — is giving the issue the attention it deserves, leaders say. "It's not like this suddenly made everybody realize that we need to do something new," said Erik Decker, chief information security officer of Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Health. "It's more of a check into: 'Yep, here's the reason why we need to be doing the work we have to be doing.'"

6. Leaders from Mayo Clinic discussed how their new $5 billion hospital campus in downtown Rochester, Minn., would be fully "digitized." "Imagine a future where you need some medical gauze and you go into that supply room and you say 'gauze,' and a wall panel opens, lighting peaks up and that supply is delivered to you," said Tara Gosse, director of clinical innovation at Mayo Clinic, at a panel. "And it's been stamped into inventory overnight by an autonomous robot or, even better yet, a predictive resource delivery." She added: "As we think about the future, instead of even going to that medical supply closet, our aspirations at the highest level are that those supplies could come right to the bedside or right to the patient's home."

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