The HIMSS conference, an annual health technology gathering that attracts more than 30,000 attendees and about 1,000 exhibiting companies, concluded yesterday. The buzz was, as expected, where the big money is -- things like hospital and clinic electronic medical records (EMRs), interoperability between various systems, and the continued phrenetic energy around eletronic record implementation associated with the original stimulus bill, ARRA.
The extent of true patient-facing, price transparency tools was limited to a few select niches. The concept of patient check-in kiosks is becoming popular, with everyone from larger companies like NCR and Merge healthcare to a bunch of smaller companies offering the ability to check-in and resolve copays via a kiosk. The other clear trend was the patient portal concept, where a patient can log in to a portal to communicate with their provider and, if the manufacturer builds it well, perhaps learn about their financial responsibility and make a payment online. The big (and mind-bogglingly expensive) electronic medical record companies like Epic and NextGen have a good handle on this, as do other players like NextGen and even Microsoft.
Given the conference's focus on the industry insiders rather than consumers, it appeared rather light on direct-to-consumer products in the consumerism arena, but that is to be expected given that the typical attendee of the conference was a health provider IT worker, a software vendor, or a health consultant. Still, based on what we saw and what we continue to read, we think the health price transparency market still fragments into four main categories:
- Websites devoted exclusively to healthcare consumerism, like yours truly, HealthHarbor, and others
- Insurance company price portals which are popping up all over the country. We commend them for doing this, but question the value of having healthcare price information so fragmented, and do people really trust the insurers to provide this information?
- Companies who offer data and potential services to help individuals or companies with price transparency, such as Compass and Castlight who both have proven models, and others
- Software and analytics focused on helping the physician office be the reliable source of detailed and transparent patient liability information, such as MD Clarity
If nothing else, HIMSS was a testament to the money being thrown at healthcare today. An excellent account of the conference can be found at one of our favorite blogs, HisTalk, which is aimed mainly at industry folk but an interesting read for anyone. The writers provided a daily recap of HIMSS, and based on their posts must have walked every inch of the exhibit floor and spent a few hours each night writing. The best HIMSS recap we've seen yet.
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