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I was looking at the website for HIMSS. HIMSS is typically early in the year. This year because of the pandemic and the fact that we’re suddenly getting back to it in person, it is being held in person but now in August and Las Vegas. We were looking at the schedule and what kind of topics they have. One of them, of course, is artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Clinical data

Suppose you look down some of the topics (healthcare forum, state of the industry, EHR modernization, AI into the clinical workflow, Seattle Children’s, and more). In that case, it’s interesting to note that all of these are about clinical. In other words, it is using clinical data in machine learning and artificial intelligence, data-driven hypothesis to predictive model in under an hour. Again, there are some nuances to it in terms of what’s ethical and more. Still, for the most part, it’s pretty much clinical. As far as I can tell, there’s virtually nothing about the financial side. I think we’ve found one related to financial reimbursement out of all of them. Which, is kind of fascinating that there are so few. I think it says a lot.

If you think about the industry as a whole, let’s call it healthcare AI. Just broadly speaking, there are some massive names in this business. Organizations like General Electric and Siemens, which are substantial multi-billion-dollar entities with existing healthcare divisions in their organization, are themselves multi-billion dollar divisions in artificial intelligence. Yet, there are also just some technology companies and real monsters in the world. For instance, Intel, IBM, Google, Microsoft, and others are in healthcare AI. Those organizations are all intriguing because they’re all about the clinical data. They are focused on the clinical data.

Deliver valuable care

Google, I think, bought Fitbit earlier this year. Again, they’re tracking clinical information, using that information, and trying to tie everything together. And again, I’m not saying there’s no value in that. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to note the focus on clinical almost to the exclusion of financial. I understand clinical drives a lot. It’s kind of like saying, “Okay, if we’re building cars, are we going to worry about the finance of building cars? We have to worry about building cars.” In healthcare, it is delivering care. I get that, but we also have to get paid. There’s that.

Market segmentation

Suppose you look at the segmentation of the market. In that case, even if you look at consulting companies or organizations that sell market intelligence around healthcare AI, they break it out into some categories like geography (North America, South America, Europe, or something else). So, what type of offering it is (Is it hardware, software, services?), technology-specific categories (machine learning, natural language processing, context-aware computing, or computer vision)?

Take it down to the application level (robotic-assisted surgery, virtual nursing assistant, administrative workflow assistant, fraud detection, dosage error, clinical trial participant, preliminary diagnosis) and user application (things like patient data and risk analysis, inpatient care, medical imaging and diagnostics, lifestyle management and monitoring, virtual assistant, drug discovery, or research). We will keep going.

I mean wearables, precision medicine, emergency room, mental health. As far as I can tell, of all of those categories, the financial may be buried somewhere in one of those. In all of those things that we can see, even in the market segmentation, the financial revenue cycle part of the business may be somewhere under administrative workflow assistant or some other category that’s not entirely clear.

Where about the financial side?

Still, it’s fascinating to see, even when people look at the lens of the market, that it’s almost as though the financial side doesn’t even exist. We know, of course, that artificial intelligence, even on the financial side in terms of reimbursement, exists in healthcare. We know that large payers, large healthcare insurance companies are using it to reduce payouts.

Nonetheless, that’s another whole separate article in another podcast. We know it exists. If it exists and matters because making money does matter, why is the financial reimbursement side of the business nowhere to be found at HIMSS?

Even if you look at one of the other categories of the courses and schedule and things like that, data and analytics, again, it’s pretty much just about all clinical: COVID, the role of data in health equity, determinants of health within their communities, improving outcomes, data-driven hypothesis, predictive models. These are all clinical.

Focus on the financial side

Again, I understand that it would make sense that many of them or even most of them, but all of them? It’s kind of surprising. Why is that? Well, I think that the reason why HIMSS has so much focus on clinical and virtually none on the financial side of the business in terms of these categories. As far as we can tell, there aren’t many companies engaging in machine learning and artificial intelligence when it comes to the financial side of the business.

Indeed, not the tremendous players like some of those we talked about before. Intel, IBM, Google, Microsoft, or GE. GE for decades has been focused on artificial intelligence for diagnostic purposes. I was at GE decades ago when we were prototyping some of that stuff in the 90’s and trying to roll it out commercially. Trade shows are essentially vendor-driven since the vendors pay the bills. In addition, those prominent vendors, I think, are all focused on the clinical side of the business. That’s probably why we see so little of it on the agenda.

In conclusion

However, I think we would all be well-served from a provider standpoint in focusing some attention on machine learning and artificial intelligence. Further, on the financial side of the business because we need to be profitable and we need to emerge from this difficult life that we’ve had recently as a result of the pandemic.