HIMSS18 was – surprise, surprise – HIMSS again this year, and attracted similar crowds of healthcare and health IT leaders.  The Las Vegas version is split over two vast floors at the Venetian Sands Expo Center.  Fittingly, the massive temples to healthcare overhead and the rails it runs on were upstairs, with startups, niche services providers, academic institutions, and other solutions sprawling across the ground floor.  Don’t get me wrong, the 48,000 attendees are passionately and optimistically working to improve the system that is about to implode under its own weight, but it is remarkable that so much can go on around and in support of a caregiver treating a patient.

The crowd was energized and with the slightly more compact Las Vegas format, more open to impromptu interaction than I remember in Orlando.  It cannot be said that healthcare is an industry unaware of the challenges that loom – cost and security were the issues on everyone’s mind, and every panel and booth had their ready answer for both issues.  From Paul Krugman and Hal Wolf’s fireside chat, to the side stages and breakouts people were focused on macro pressures and how to address or remove costs in a secure way.

Cerner won the square footage arms race with IBM, Epic, and Change not far behind.  A visible presence from both Uber and Lyft with their many partners as an alternative patient transport service, an array of wearables and app-based interaction platforms, and then all the IoT, network, and content security solutions that might allow us to sleep at night.  Although Google and Amazon both had reasonably sized booths, their presence through conversation and partner programs was outsized.   As always, the show floor was rich in pens, notepads, and fidget spinner evolutions, but my favorite trade show development was the swag socks offering – a novelty worth hearing a pitch for.

Below the surface, there was a lot going on.  There is still the amusing number of companies that have added “blockchain” or “AI” to their tag line to catch the wave, but the conversation seems to have shifted from “what if” to “how.”  If crowds around the Hashed Health product demos were an indication, the desire to see actual examples of the technology in action showed a long unmet need of workable blockchain solutions. Hashed Health was happy to fill the void.

The Hashed Health booth was split into three counters, one focused on Hashed Labs running the Bramble demo, the second focused on ProCredEx and the practitioner identity and credentialing demo, and the third was Collective, Enterprise, investors, and everything else. Almost every conversation that did not directly start with a demo, ended up in front of a demo and usually with an exclamation about how cool it was to see a blockchain solution in action.

Broadly, there was again a lot of talk about technical evolution with machine learning, AI, and blockchain front and center.  Starting on Tuesday morning with Corey Todaro from Hashed Health, Emily Vaughn from Change Healthcare, Mike Jacobs from Optum, Ted Tanner from PokitDok, and David Houlding from Intel Health & Life Sciences as moderator, a panel titled “BLOCKCHAIN RESET – SEEING THROUGH THE HYPE AND STARTING DOWN THE PATH”  gave a standing room only crowd on the innovation stage a blockchain reset – where are we, what is real, and how do I start.

On day two, Brian Behlendorf the Executive Director of HyperLedger, and again Corey Todaro, our Chief Product Officer and Director of Hashed Labs at Hashed Health, did BLOCKCHAIN 101 FOR HEALTHCARE in front of a much larger standing room only crowd on one of the main stages.

Brian and Corey did well to address the stated goals to:

  1. Recognize what blockchain technology is and what it isn’t
  2. Describe use cases of blockchain technology in healthcare
  3. Discuss what should be considered when looking at blockchain
  4. Identify best practices for applying blockchain in healthcare
  5. Recognize that blockchain is not a fit for everything and discuss other possible solutions

We kicked off day 3 with a breakfast for the HIMSS Blockchain working group – a good chance to connect the many names and faces after a year of conference calls.

All told, HIMSS is and was a remarkable experience.  The scale, the excess, the enthusiasm, the hopefulness, the innovation, and the crowd must be experienced.  HIMSS is about the seller of paper scanners next to smart phone based, AI enhanced natural language speech recognition platforms, it is what is about to be washed away sitting unknowingly next to what will replace it, innovation at its core. It is about entrepreneurs years ahead of the market, and it is about mainstays in mid pivot to keep up with the market.  There is no lens, podcast, step counter, meeting list, or stack of business cards that can adequately describe it – my advice, sign up for next year – we will see you there.