3 Words Missing From HIMSS16

By Michelle Snyder

Looking to lose a few pounds? No need for Weight Watchers, the answer is HIMSS - the largest healthcare information management systems conference in the world. Sorry Oprah, but as in years past, I think I hit my target step number before 10am each day trying to make my way through cavernous exhibit halls and casinos in Vegas and skipping lunch due to the long lines.

All kidding aside, HIMSS is one of those shows where you can pack a lot into a few days – interesting speakers, informative sessions and hundreds (though it seems like thousands) of companies showcasing the latest and greatest in healthcare IT. Even Welltok had a presence this year, with over 350 people attending our presentation with Centura Health entitled Applying Cognitive Computing to Population Health.

As a marketer, I can’t help but spend time walking the exhibit halls with my eye towards the latest messaging – who’s rebranded, repositioned or redesigned their solutions. This year as I was walking around, I thought it would be fun to do an informal tally of the most popular words on display in the exhibit hall. As you can see from the word cloud above, the two phrases that seemed to stand out the most in the hall were Patient Engagement and Population Health. I was actually excited to see so much focus on engagement as it’s something the industry has not focused on in the past. However, with both of these phrases, it was interesting to see how they are being defined by various stakeholders. When I asked each vendor what population health and patient engagement meant, I got as many answers as vendors.

What was most interesting to me, however, were not the phrases that seemed to play out as often as Adele on the radio these days. But the words that were conspicuously absent: Consumer. Individual. Personalization.

While it’s significant that the industry now seems to be as focused on thinking about the needs of care recipients rather than just care providers – patient engagement, patient satisfaction, and patient empowerment – I believe real change will only occur when the industry stops thinking about people as patients and starts thinking about them as consumers. The reality is that only a small percentage of people are in patient mode at any given time and the majority of the time they are living their lives as healthcare consumers who are making daily choices related to their health outside the four walls of a healthcare facility.

To drive real engagement and improve the health of a population requires more than just introducing new nomenclature. We must truly understand consumers as individuals  not as a population segment or cohort, which has been standard industry practice. This will require using data in new ways and tapping into one of the most important data sets out there – information from the individual about their interests, motivations and preferences. It’s really hard, and we’re still in the beginning stages of the personalization journey. But I, for one, am excited about treating patients like consumers and driving true engagement and change.