5 Takeaways From HIMSS 2016

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HIMSS16 was an amazing experience – we got the chance to get a crash course in health care IT, network with exhibitors and practitioners, see amazing keynotes from Michael Dell and Peyton Manning, and best of all – enjoy what the Las Vegas Strip has to offer! Anytime you attend an ultra-conference with more than 40,000 attendees, there are going to be countless topics of discussion. However, we found that many of the conversations revolved around the following 5 topics:

1. Interoperability

What is it? The ability for systems to integrate to each other and play nicely. The Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Matthews Burwell, mentioned a recent landmark agreement where many of the top health care IT vendors agreed to create open API’s for systems to communicate and play nicely with each other.

What does this mean for testing?

For us, this was an exciting revelation around the future of testing in hospitals. In the past, many organizations would test systems separately using the test scripts provided by that particular vendor. However, we believe that many organizations will need to take more ownership of their test cases, being able to combine test cases from various systems to be able to conduct effective integration testing.

2. Security

What is it? Making sure that data is protected not just when it is stored at rest in the Electronic Health Record System, but also when it is in transit from various integrated systems. There have been several notable breaches in 2015 which not only risk patient privacy, but also create pushback against the adoption of Electronic Health Records.

What does this mean for testing?

Many of the hospitals at HIMSS16 focus almost purely on functional testing, with the assistance of BA’s or clinicians to perform testing in more of a user acceptance type of process. Security testing is a highly technical and specialized type of testing, for which hospitals will need to hire dedicated talent, or more likely, outsource those testing efforts to a partner.

3. Big Data

What is it? One of the biggest benefits of an EHR is the ability to consolidate population health data into a single data source, which can be manipulated and analyzed to detect life saving trends for disease prevention. Many hospitals are not well equipped to handle the unique development and testing requirements that coming with handling comprehensive health data for thousands (or even millions) of patients.

What does this mean for testing?

As with security testing, hospitals are not devoting adequate attention to the layers of the application beyond the user interface. Most of these population health databases are created through highly technical ETL processes that involve little or no user interface interaction. This will drive hospitals to build more complete testing strategies from front (user interface) to back (database) of their applications.

4. Health Level 7 Standards

What is it? A set of comprehensive standards relating to transfer of health data between systems. Health Level 7 is considered the pinnacle in health data security, and many organizations at HIMSS16 were being awarded for their ability to attain this set of standards. Many other organizations are still trying to make the move to this set of standards, and are currently eager to learn best practices and put a solid plan in place.
What does this mean for testing?

Similar to ICD-10 conversion, Health Level 7 can be a far reaching initiative that will require extensive development and a structured test strategy to make sure the changes do not have any ripple impacts. Many organizations are leaning on partners to accelerate the process, while other organizations are tackling this head on as an internal initiative. Either way, there must be a solid test planning and reporting infrastructure in place to make sure that all potential outcomes are explored and tested.

5. Patient Data Access

What is it? The desire for patients to be able to access their health data easily, and get useful insights about their data (test results, images, etc) as they become available. A large component of these is unshackling the data from the EHR systems and finding ways to transmit this data into patient facing portals and mobile applications that can give them a holistic view of their health data.

What does this mean for testing?

Most organizations today are focused on web and desktop applications, but the reality is that most consumers (i.e. patients) are spending a majority of their time on their mobile devices and not on their computers. Hospitals will need to master the development and testing of mobile solutions. Many patient portal providers exist which can fill this niche, but many other organizations are investigating how to bring this competency

All in all, HIMSS16 was a great show and we look forward to HIMSS17 next year. Hopefully we will be able to catch you at next years show in Orlando!

If you want to learn more about how QASymphony can help healthcare providers improve efficiency in the testing process, read this case study.

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