Entries in health information (2)


HIMSS11 Conference Planning

I could spell out what HIMSS stands for, but if you have to ask, you probably aren’t planning to attend this major gathering for the healthcare industry.  HIMSS (okay, it stands for Health Information Management Systems Society) is a membership organization that was established 50 years ago for IT professionals working in healthcare, but has grown to include adjacent segments with interests in health IT.  The annual conference attracts close to 30,000 attendees (about 28,000 last year in Atlanta, but I expect a higher number in Orlando this year) and requires advanced planning to arrange meetings and optimize one’s route to minimize miles walked per day. 


Last year, I was pleased to see so many “traditional” healthcare publishers with a presence in the exhibit hall.  My blog post last March mentioned many of them.   This year, I expect to see even more publishers in the exhibit hall, on the program, and sitting in education sessions.  Better yet, I expect to see more progress in creating point-of-care clinical decision support tools and care management tools that build on the best-of-breed authoritative content and data sources. 


Forging alliances between the healthcare publishers and EMR/EHR/Health IT vendors is an important part of what we do at Health Content Advisors.  We’re not always the final dealmaker, but we get involved in identifying content and technology partners in nearly all of our client projects.  So, whether you are on the publishing side or the IT content integration or data exchange side, we’re interested in learning what is new among your offerings.  Please contact me @ if you’d like to set up a meeting at HIMSS11.


On the “social” side, I’m looking forward to meeting up with the healthcare folks I interact with on a near daily basis on Twitter and via this blog.  It was terrific to connect with many so many of my social media contacts last year in Atlanta and I look forward to catching up with even more people this year-with better advanced planning-in Orlando.  HIMSS will have an expanded social media center in Exhibit Hall E, Booth 7981 , where I know I’ll see familiar faces.  I still remember getting a Twitter message from Liza Sisler @lizasisler who recognized me from my online photo when I sat in one of the social media sessions last year (“is that you across the aisle from me?”).   Also, I plan to attend the new media bloggers tweetup at the MEDecision booth #2563 on Tuesday, February 22 from 4:30-6pm. 


For more information on the HIMSS11 conference, see the conference home page.  Along with all the activities I mention above, there is also an impressive line-up of keynoters, including the who’s who of federal healthcare officials.  I look forward to seeing you there!


Health Content is Rapidly Losing Its Value


The dismal state of the news publishing business is well known.  The competition in online news has become so intense that users now expect to receive general news for free.  It’s not a stretch to say that news stories that report the latest medical research results fall in the same category (and constitute the majority of health stories in general news outlets).  


This trend isn’t unique to news or health content.  All digital content is becoming commoditized.  Why?  The answer is complex, driven mainly by technology.  Good quality digital publishing systems are available for free (e.g., WordPess, open source CMS systems), thereby eliminating the cost of production and replication,  and distribution costs have been driven down to near zero with Web distribution.  These factors combine to reduce the barriers to entry, and as a result, the volume of digital content has exploded.  Marketers are giving away content to promote their goods and services; citizen journalists are blogging, texting, and Tweeting; and social media tools have made it relatively easy to build an audience for content.  Publishers, whose product is content, have to give away some of it to draw in users, but too often seem confused about what content to give away and what content to retain as premium content. 


This commoditization phenomenon isn’t contained to publishers.  As pointed out by Tom H. Lee, MD in a provocative article, “Commodifying Content Through IT: Could Physicians Be Next” in iHealthBeat last month, physicians are experiencing commoditization, too. Dr. Lee (who headed content development for Epocrates in its early days) posits that once the knowledge of doctors is encoded in computerized clinical decision support systems, the value of the physician who once had controlled access to the same information will decline.

Take for example, the use of nurse practitioners and other non-physician clinicians for many relatively routine tasks previously carried out by doctors.  Minute-Clinics and the like are prime examples where order sets are used to diagnose and treat common conditions.  (See Harry Bliss cartoon: The doctor’s nurse’s nurse practitioner will see you now).  Even self-diagnostic systems for patient use will become more commonplace over time as clinical decision support systems improve and gain acceptance as reliable diagnostic tools.   

Okay, so let’s accept that health news content is a commodity.  What about more specialized health content, such as fulltext journal articles, drug information, books, and other reference materials?  The evidence indicates these categories are approaching commodity status, too.  How fast they are de-valued depends on how easy it is to recreate or reproduce the information and other barriers to entry. 


In today’s market we’re often willing to pay to find content, but not for the content itself.  Rewards for creating content are declining relative to the rewards of creating new technology for processing content. 


What should health content publishers - and healthcare professionals - be doing to maintain their value in the face of technology-driven commoditization?  In short, they need to “move up the value chain”.  Sometimes just aggregating related content and making it accessible at the point of need is sufficient added-value to extract a premium.[1]  Other times, investing in creating sophisticated workflow tools or analytic engines that integrate content with IT to guide users to optimal solutions may be necessary to produce sufficient value in today’s market.  So when it comes to technology, publishers need to embrace the opportunities to enhance their content and expertise with appropriate technology and make IT their friend before fear of technology defeats them. 



[1] Just yesterday, I discovered that TauMed, a health news aggregator has shut down and its founder now works at EveryZing.  Clearly, aggregation services that operate in a crowded space face commoditization as well.