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In April, three of Cloud21’s senior leadership team visited HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) in Chicago, and met up with our colleagues from Tegria alongside over 35,000 other attendees registered this year. As ever technology was at the heart of the content, be it demos, tech provider stands or presentations. And looming large, as it is across seemingly every industry right now, was artificial intelligence (AI).

Artificial intelligence or just automation?

For Martin Jeffries, Cloud21’s Chief Commercial Officer, the key takeaways centred around data-driven innovation enabled by AI. "With EPR maturity in the US at a more advanced stage than in the UK, there were a lot of sessions about use cases from using data and AI to drive efficiency, from triage diagnostic tests through to NLP (Natural Language Processing) enabling everything from ambient notetaking to patient access."

Is it genuine AI or is it just automation?

Cloud21 CEO, Dr Tony Corkett, was also struck by the prevalence of AI at HIMSS. "AI is an interesting one not least because there are different definitions of what AI actually is. Everyone is saying they are using AI but what does that mean? Is it genuine AI or is it just automation?"

Likewise, Kath Dean, Chief of Staff at Cloud21, acknowledges the potential of AI but sees it being at the beginning of its journey. "AI was very much a big theme, but it’s not as embedded as people might think given the amount of coverage it’s getting. It still feels like it’s embryonic in its development and implementation."

Data-driven healthcare

Data was also a big topic with regards to operational efficiency, and in looking for opportunities to address challenges to patient flow and transfer of care. "All of this is extremely encouraging in terms of the market opportunities following EPR deployments", said Martin. "It really demonstrates that EPR programs are the foundation of a patient-centred, data-driven, technology-enabled approach to healthcare improvement."

One of the examples of data usage caught Kath’s imagination. "There was an interesting story from Portugal where data lakes are being created as part of the European project to develop a European Health data space. Finding out how other countries address their challenges with data is invaluable. Even if there are local differences, there are often global learnings."

Data is of course inextricably linked with integration and interoperability, two other key themes at the event this year. Tony was particularly interested to learn about new standards potentially being introduced around how systems are connected. "We need to see what the US government is doing in terms of integration and interoperability and any legislation that comes from that, as it may have an impact on what we do here in Europe."

people talking at the branded Tegria stand at HIMMS

The art of the possible

The US is generally thought to be 5-10 years ahead of the UK in terms of investment and maturity of technology so HIMSS provides an opportunity for Cloud21 to see the next generation of technology for the needs of patients.

Improved technology isn’t going to deliver healthcare – it’s how we use it

"We simply don’t get the same breadth of content in Europe so it’s great to get a headstart on the next big thing," said Tony. "This first glance at the future enables us to find out the art of the possible when we’re looking at strategy and therefore solutions. We need ensure it’s relevant to our market, investigate whether there are US suppliers that can help address the challenges we have in Europe and then feed all this back to our customers in the NHS."

"The amount of money being invested in healthcare technology is phenomenal. But improved technology in itself isn’t going to deliver healthcare in the future – it will be how we use technology that does this."

Tech + people = success

This was Kath’s first experience of HIMSS and she was keen to see not just the new technology available but also the difference new IT in healthcare will make for patients, staff and the workforce overall.

IT enablement impacts the workforce in many ways, so we need to understand the big picture.

"HIMSS showcased some amazing possibilities. But there’s a lot of work still to be done regarding clinical safety, for example in the area of remote monitoring. It’s important to determine what all this means for the doctor on call, for junior doctors, and how they’re all supported. IT enablement impacts the workforce in many ways, so we need to understand the big picture."

The tech is a vital element but using it in the smartest possible way to help the NHS and its workforce is the key. Supporting the people who make the transformation process happen and then implement it, will make the biggest difference.

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