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March 17, 2017
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Atacan Donmez possesses 30 years of experience leading service delivery organizations that support complex system transformation programs in the Federal Government Health IT market. Currently, Atacan is responsible for program development and strategic advancement in CSRA’s Health and Civil business unit. He utilizes his deep technical expertise combined with business acumen and management skills to identify customer needs and develop transformation solutions for Health IT capabilities to address those needs, enabling successful healthcare reform, improving healthcare quality, and maximizing patient results. His clients include Departments of Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs.

I was pleased to attend the 2017 HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition in Orlando last month along with 40,000+ other health IT professionals, clinicians, executives and vendors from around the world. I was part of a CSRA delegation focused on learning what’s new in the industry and networking with key stakeholders in the federal health sphere.

The conference featured a number of education sessions on a variety of healthcare IT topics. I have several key takeaways from HIMSS this year:  

Growing Concern over Cybersecurity among Health Professionals

There were plenty of conversations and presentations at HIMSS about the ongoing challenges that healthcare IT leaders face, such as federal policy or changing payment models, but a common thread was growing concern about cyber threats. It was exciting to see that health professionals are increasingly focused on cybersecurity and are partnering with traditional IT firms to protect patient information in a way that still allows them to be innovative, share data, and develop more effective care models.

Precision Medicine Relies on Precision Data

There were a number of sessions and product vendors concerned with integrating research data with clinical data, and making that available to physicians at the point of care. I saw several case studies that demonstrated the high value of precision medicine to enhance the value of care, starting with accelerating diagnoses and achieving increased precision in drug prescriptions to treatment methods and protocols.

Precision medicine becomes even more effective when patient data is integrated with research data such as that obtained from human genomics, cancer genomics, environmental aspects, lifestyle factors, and similar data points. The CSRA team and I attended a product launch by a company called 2beprecise. It was an impressive demonstration, and they are already doing some live trials at the NIH Clinical Center. Our interaction with 2beprecise at the conference led to a meeting last week at CSRA where we established some synergies and plans to collaborate across our NIH and DHA clients.

Data Interoperability to Improve Healthcare Quality

The above observations tie to a higher level theme across the conference: How can we achieve data interoperability across the care continuum and even extend it to the entire healthcare eco-system to improve the quality of healthcare and lower costs? It was widely acknowledged at the conference that there is a need for analytics and quality reporting, so what can you do with the data? It became apparent that the analytics space is quite large and ripe with opportunity.

A number of presentations promoted the notion of interoperable analytics. Interoperability is not only about integrating health care systems; it also includes establishing data interoperability across the entire spectrum and continuum of care, and making that data available in a meaningful way to all stakeholders at different points of the continuum. The ultimate end game is to be able to identify and create interoperability at the data level, at the analytics level, and at the methods level. And this is actually where traditional IT methodology really shines in support of healthcare.

Integration through APIs

We know how to achieve data interoperability in IT–it’s through the use of APIs. At HIMSS, there was consensus around how API strategy will become the centerpiece of the health platform. Getting there will entail more people across the healthcare industry agreeing to expose more of their capabilities via APIs so that they can be integrated. There is some level of progress made on this front, but much work remains.

The health care sector, like government itself, is under pressure to modernize and implement new technologies. The HIMSS conference served as an important reminder that in all cases, security is of paramount importance in pursuit of IT modernization.

FUN FACT:  When asked which party at #HIMSS17 was the best for networking with Federal Health IT colleagues, attendees named CSRA's Howl at the Moon reception. Check it out!