New HIMSS CEO talks innovation, consumerization, and the importance of 'and'

By Jonah Comstock
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Hal Wolf, the new CEO of HIMSS, thinks adding a three letter word to his organization’s mission statement will go a long way toward positioning HIMSS for the future. Instead of the old tagline “transforming health through information technology”, Wolf wants it to read “transforming health through information and technology”.

“My experience is there’s nothing that’s actually a technology project,” Wolf told MobiHealthNews in a recent interview on the sidelines of HIMSS Media’s Big Data and Healthcare Analytics forum. “They’re all business projects, but they’re enabled inevitably through technology. When you think about the end users of the technology, what are they using? In the end they’re using information, especially in healthcare.”

Many of the big trends that are driving change in healthcare, including big data, remote patient monitoring, and personalized medicine, are advances in information availability as much as they are advances in technology. Focusing on the information in addition to the technology will help the organization stay centered and mission-focused, even as technology continues to advance in new and unpredictable ways.

“What I hear around the globe is people are faced with the recognition that healthcare is changing, it’s information-based, and there are extenders in the expectation of the patient/consumer/citizen to be connected with their provider, and their payer, et cetera. All of that fits into the digital health space,” Wolf said. “HIMSS is just an absolute natural location to be a critical part of that conversation. And there’s two ways to do that. One is as a facilitator and leading the conversation, not only on the technology side, but on the outcomes and the way it’s impacting health. The second … is at the point of innovation.”

Wolf says a recognition of the increased role innovation is playing in health IT led HIMSS to acquire Health 2.0 earlier this year.

“If you look at Health 2.0, here’s an organization focused on insuring that new applications and new innovations can connect with providers, can connect with investors,” Wolf said. “… So it really takes HIMSS and makes sure that its trajectory of technology and innovation isn’t just on the larger scale and the established provider, but it also recognizes an extension into individual care, innovation that’s small going large, and it helps us push the industry to a little bit of a cutting edge.”

HIMSS is finding itself focusing more on patients and consumers than it ever has before, because the consumer is becoming a more important player in the healthcare ecosystem.

“The shift to consumerization is impacting healthcare as much as it’s impacting any industry and I could probably argue even more, because there’s nothing more personal to someone than their health,” Wolf said. “…Consumerization is having an impact and every healthcare system’s beginning to feel it. They cannot deliver one size fits all anymore.”

Rather than one size fits all, Wolf believes that technology and information are reaching a point where it’s possible to both personalize care for the patient while still keeping it relatively standardized on the back end.

“Once you understand that presentation layers, which is how you see things and touch things, can be very flexible, as long as you have consistency on the back end in terms of information and how the data is exchanged, it opens up a whole new world of flexibility,” Wolf said. “So we’ve seen that in many industries. We’ve seen that in communications, we’ve seen that in banking, we’ve seen that in just grocery shopping. It’s all becoming different. Cars are no longer cars, they’re environments. They’ll say that at Ford: ‘We’re creating individual environments that are wrapped around an individual’s preferences.’ And we’re going to see that in healthcare. And that is a big leap forward.”

Disclosure: MobiHealthNews is a publication of HIMSS Media, a subsidiary of HIMSS.