At HIMSS16, Massachusetts Leads Health IT into Next Stage of Data Analytics and Value-Based Care

Massachusetts is known for pioneering healthcare reform programs that led national efforts and we continue to demonstrate leadership in advancing quality improvements in healthcare delivery.  At the recent annual HIMSS16 conference in Las Vegas, where approximately 42,000 health IT vendors and customers convened to exchange the latest information on health IT and analytics innovations, it was clear that Massachusetts is in the pole position to retain the lead in developing the next generation of health IT and analytics solutions.

Healthcare analytics depend on a reliable foundation for data collection and data management. With database infrastructure that serves 2/3 of the US population via its healthcare provider clients, InterSystems has played a key role in establishing the health IT foundation. Although they have generally operated behind-the-scenes, InterSystems is moving into a more visible role as they offer solutions for care coordination and advanced data analytics. I expect more people in healthcare will know their name in the future.

InterSystems booth at HIMSS16

GE, IBM and Xerox are extremely well-known corporate names that are recognized in the healthcare sector. These storied corporate brands have demonstrated a history of innovation and reinvention that they are applying to an array of data management, analytics, and connected health initiatives. With decades of experience in enterprise computing and cultures that are skilled at integrating acquisitions to build best-of-breed solutions, these corporate giants will likely remain leading names in healthcare for the foreseeable future.

There are far too many product and corporate development announcements made at HIMSS to attempt a recap, even if it were limited to companies with strong ties to Massachusetts. However, the announcement of the $2.6 billion acquisition of Truven Health Analytics by IBM Watson is one that captured a lot of attention. Furthermore, I heard from more than a few experienced health IT professionals who would jump at the opportunity to join IBM’s expanding team at its new Watson Health headquarters near Kendall Square.

In healthcare, financial incentives and regulatory requirements factor into most major business and clinical decisions.  Telehealth is a great example. The technology has been available for some time, but regulations held back the supply of doctors available to practice across state lines. More important, the lack of a clear path for reimbursement constrained interest from clinicians. With the advent of recognition of the value of telehealth by payers, Boston-based American Well has been able to expand its portfolio of services to include multiway video, a mobile SDK, and the Telemed Tablet that facilitates specialist consultations via mobile teleconferencing.

Securing access to protected health information is another area where the right technology can overcome barriers to efficient workflow. Lexington-based Imprivata, a leading provider of health IT solutions for single sign-on and secure communications, is known for its clever and informative presentations at HIMSS which attract a large audience to its booth every year and didn’t disappoint this year.

Imprivata booth at HIMSS16

The overarching theme of my coverage of HIMSS16 has been how health IT has entered a more mature phase, where basic IT capabilities are a required part of doing business and more advanced solutions are in the spotlight. New value-based care and payment models depend on a higher degree of care coordination and need to involve patients in care decisions. Massachusetts has many early-stage and more “mature” health IT companies that offer solutions for secure communications, data exchange, population health analytics, and patient decision tools that all contribute to a more efficient connected care continuum. Other notable MassTLC member companies that are playing a role in transforming healthcare & were represented at HIMSS16 run the gamut from start-up PatientPing, not-for-profit government systems engineering and analysis company Mitre, and big data analytics company, Optum Labs and athenahealth, whose CEO, Jonathan Bush, always manages to capture the spotlight at HIMSS.

HIMSS is not just a conference; it is an event that combines education sessions, keynote addresses, exhibit hall demonstrations, and social events. Health IT companies from Massachusetts also stood as sponsors of some of the “must-attend” social events, too. Here’s a picture of the author at HIStalkapalooza, posing with Elvis and Pat Rioux, who works for Elsevier in the Boston area. Elsevier and athenahealth are both sponsors of HIStalkapalooza.


Janice McCallum, “Elvis”, and Pat Rioux at HIStalkapalooza, HIMSS16

This article first appeared in the MassTLC blog: This is an updated version and is republished here with permission. 


Parsing the Progress of Health IT at HIMSS16

Since my first HIMSS conference in 2010, my consistent theme has centered on how health IT will get more interesting as it matures. My rationale: the types of problems we can solve become more complex and impactful as more core data become accessible for analysis.

That’s the focus on one of my articles in the HIMSS16 newsfeed, Identifying Signs of Maturity in Health IT at HIMSS16. One sign of maturity includes an increasing volume of partnerships and merger & acquisition (M&A) activity, especially among established firms. I’d like to thank IBM for announcing its acquisition of Truven Health Analytics prior to HIMSS16; that relieves me of relaying that information during the conference! At $2.6 billion, I expect this acquisition to be one of the biggest announced for the health IT and analytics community for the whole quarter and I look forward to learning more about the combined entity next week.

Another sign of maturity can be found in terminology changes. I’ve already seen indications that some specific categories in health IT will be rolled up into larger categories. For instance, the distinction between the EMR and the EHR categories is blurring.[1] Over time, more amorphous categories such as clinical decision support will likely get subsumed into larger categories like clinical intelligence. And, before long, we won’t need a dedicated area to showcase interoperability at HIMSS; instead, we will be able to talk about all the things we can do because of the underlying interoperability between previously distinct systems.

Moving From Meaningful to Valuable Uses of Health Data

With the foundation for ‘meaningful use’ of basic EHR data nearly complete, we can move forward to developing analytic solutions that depend on a solid foundation of process and outcomes measures. We’re making progress understanding the relationships between outcomes and interventions, but in this segment, we’re at very early stages of maturity. However, the shift to a value-based payment system will accelerate developments in outcomes measurement and analysis.

Where to Find Me at HIMSS16

My schedule for HIMSS16 is a mish-mash of 1:1 meetings, press briefings, receptions, keynotes and education session with a few minutes here & there left open to wander the exhibit hall.

A few notable sessions & events where I hope to run into friends and colleagues follow:


  • Opening keynotes on Monday, March 1 at 5 pm.
  • HIStalkapalooza Monday evening
  • #HealthITChicks meetup, Tuesday, March 1 at 10 am, HIMSS Spot
  • #TheWalkingGallery meetup, Tuesday, March 1 at 1:30 pm, Xerox booth #8005
  • New England HIMSS reception, Tuesday, March 1 at 4:30 pm, Elsevier booth #3039
  • Social Media Ambassador meetup, Wednesday, March 2, HIMSS Spot


I look forward to a super-charged week at HIMSS16. I’ll try to live up to the new “Health IT Maturity Champion” moniker that HIMSS Media has coined for me (or maybe not!).


[1] The HIMSS Analytics team tipped me off to some terminology changes that are likely to occur soon. See my article on HIMSS Analytics LOGIC here:


New Report on Digital Health Technology for the Underserved

A new report from Jane Sarasohn-Kahn for the California Health Care Foundation (, Digitizing the Safety Net: Health Tech Opportunities for the Underserved, canvasses the digital health technology landscape through the lens of connecting healthcare to social determinants of health (SDOH). In Jane’s inimitable style, she combines reviews of some notable digital health solutions with analysis of the key drivers of this emerging area. (Note, in my last blog I named Brian Ahier and Lisa Suennen as two of the best analysts & writers in healthcare; Jane is the beacon who sets the standard so that others of us aim high!)

Three key trends shine through for me:

  • Encouraging signs of consumer marketing best practices are beginning to appear in healthcare marketing (e.g., understand your audience; segment the market & match the message to the segment; use technology that is appropriate for the segment)
  • Recognition by the medical community that social determinants of health (SDOH) play a significant role in health and health maintenance.
  • Change in payment models from fee-for-service to models that reward patient-centric care coordination is the ultimate driver of change in healthcare.

I highly recommend reading and bookmarking this report, which is available for download here:

Follow Jane on her blog,, on Twitter @healthythinker and as part of the Social Media Ambassador list for the upcoming HIMSS conference, #HIMSS16


HIMSS16 Planning

 I am extremely pleased to announce that I will once again be a Social Media Ambassador at the HIMSS Annual Conference, which takes place February 29 - March 4 in Las Vegas.

This year, the theme of my posts before, during and after HIMSS16 will be the effects of the maturing of the health IT segment on the start-ups, EHR/EMR vendors, other established IT vendors, and analytics companies of all types that populate the HIMSS exhibit hall. 

As you might expect, there will be both good and bad news for health IT companies, depending on one’s perspective. My first post will build on recent trends that were highlighted at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. Fortunately, other industry experts have already covered the details of trends and announcements made at the JPM conference & associated events. You can check out Lisa Suennen’s blog post that manages to weave a David Bowie theme into her account of the event: and Brian Ahier’s post: to get a well-rounded view of major developments at JPM from two of the industry’s most knowledgable insiders and best writers!

Speaking of the industry’s best, here is the official announcement of the HIMSS16 Social Media Ambassadors, a group that I’m very proud to call colleagues and friends:

I’ll be posting more information about the HIMSS16 conference in the run-up to the event, so please check back here or contact me at: if you want to schedule a meeting at HIMSS16.



An Economist’s End-of-Life Wishes: One-Hoss Shay Depreciation

Aging in place and end-of-life care were among the hot topics at the Partners Connected Health Symposium last week, which reminded me of comments I have made in the past regarding the ideal “one-hoss shay” method of living well for a full lifetime until a quick sudden death occurs.

Let me explain. Early in my career, I worked at the Urban Institute for an economist (Charles Hulten)  who specializes in depreciation theory and productivity analysis. We held a conference and published a book with the incredibly sexy title, “Depreciation, Inflation & the Taxation of Income from Capital”. Sounds like a pager-turner, right?

Well, one of the fun things I did to prepare for the conference was to go to the rare books section of the Library of Congress to find a copy of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ poem, The Deacon’s Masterpiece, or the Wonderful One-Hoss Shay: A Logical Story. I wanted to use graphics from the original book for the flyers we printed for the conference. (Note, shay is a anglicized word for  the French word ‘chaise’, which refers to a carriage; hoss is simply the way some of us in New England pronounce the word “horse”!).

The field of economics uses the term “one-hoss shay” depreciation to describe assets that retain their useful value until they rapidly fail (like a lightbulb).  

In the poem, the deacon constructs his one-hoss shay in such a balanced and logical way so that no part represents a point of weakness:

For the wheels were just as strong as the thills,
And the floor was just as strong as the sills,
And the panels just as strong as the floor,
And the whipple-tree neither less nor more,
And the back crossbar as strong as the fore,
And spring and axle and hub encore.

Nonetheless, exactly 100 years after it was built, the carriage succumbs to the decay of old life:

And yet, as a whole, it is past a doubt
In another hour it will be worn out!

First a shiver, and then a thrill,
Then something decidedly like a spill, —
And the parson was sitting upon a rock,
At half past nine by the meet’n-house clock, —
Just the hour of the Earthquake shock!
What do you think the parson found,
When he got up and stared around?
The poor old chaise in a heap or mound,
As if it had been to the mill and ground!
You see, of course, if you’re not a dunce,
How it went to pieces all at once, —
All at once, and nothing first, —
Just as bubbles do when they burst.

End of the wonderful one-hoss shay.
Logic is logic. That’s all I say.

As you might guess, my interpretation of the poem lends itself to anthropomorphizing the shay to the human body (remember Holmes was a physician and a medical reformer:,_Sr.#Medical_reformer.2C_marriage_and_family)[1]. In brief, in my view, the ideal scenario for end-of-life is a quick catastrophic end that punctuates a long healthy life. We can’t all avoid disease, but we can follow the deacon’s playbook and attempt to keep our bodies in balance and as healthy as possible as long as possible.

Would you say our current healthcare system is optimized for one-hoss shay depreciation, which requires an emphasis on preventive maintenance so that our bodies don’t “break down” but rather “wear out”? I know my answer to that question.  The more important question is: how do we change the current system that resembles a repair shop more than it does a health maintenance system?

Just the fact that we’re addressing end-of-life issues as major themes of healthcare conferences like the Connected Health Symposium and the fact that end-of-life issues are being raised in mainstream media indicate that we’re making progress.


I recommend this YouTube reading of The Deacon’s Masterpiece by Eddie Arnold (some of you may remember him as Oliver Wendell Douglas from Green Acres!):




[1] Reading this part of Holmes’ biography led to me check for references  to Holmes in Thomas Goetz’ new book, The Remedy, Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis, which I purchased at the Connected Health Summit. Indeed there are references to Holmes (not just Sherlock) in the book and there are obvious connections between the two Holmeses.