HIMSS19 Champion of Health: Rasu Shrestha

By | January 4, 2019

As it works to foster ongoing global health improvement, HIMSS is marshalling the talents of its most important resource: its own members. In Orlando in February, select HIMSS19 Champions of Health – diverse leaders from all over the world who share a commitment to better health through information and technology – will be a major presence at the show: powerful voices who will spur discussion and action about winning strategies for data-driven healthcare.

One of those Champions of Health is Dr. Rasu Shrestha, who for the past 11 years has served as chief innovation officer at UPMC – and in the near future will be joining Atrium Health as its chief strategy officer.

We asked Shrestha what he’ll be keeping an eye on at the big show, what he thinks about buzz-heavy topics such as AI and blockchain and what under-heralded technologies he thinks might be poised for a breakthrough.

Q. What are you most looking forward to at HIMSS19?

A. HIMSS19 is going to be really interesting. There’s going to be, I think, a culmination of a lot of the stuff we’ve been talking about for the past several years, finally coming to bear fruit.

One example is telemedicine, or virtual health. There’s a lot of buzz in the industry that, with more reimbursement now coming in, telehealth is finally going to really see the light of day. It’s the overnight success story that was 30 years in the making.

I’m also really excited about substance around some of the buzzwords we’re always hearing, like AI and machine learning. There’s a lot of rhetoric around that, but what I’m hoping we’ll see is what it really means in terms of moving the needle for new care models or creating new opportunities for bringing other business models to bear in healthcare. What does it mean to address some of the physician burnout issues we’ve seen across the board?

I’m also excited about the work we’re doing through the HIMSS Innovation Committee: pushing best practices – and even worst practices – forward, highlighting what not to do, not just what to do. And then also exploring new frameworks, where we’re highlighting what are some of the models that make innovation sticky: How do we align this to the various strategies that health systems are putting together?

Q. You mentioned AI. What about another much-hyped technology, blockchain? Do you think it will continue to gain traction in 2019?

A. I think it’s starting to generate more substance. There’s obviously been a lot of buzz around blockchain. I think one phrase I heard recently was “machine intelligence-powered cloud-based blockchain network.” (Laughs.)

But I do see a lot of promise for blockchain, distributed ledger, hyper-connected networks, to address some specific challenges we’ve had in healthcare around identity management, for example, or around what what we’re starting to call smart contracts. Looking at distributed networks of consumers, as well as health systems, how do we make sure we’re able to have these smart contracts come to be in place in an environment where interoperability is still a challenge? I see some promise there.

And another area where I see some promise is on the consumer front, where there’s a movement for patients to take charge of their own data. So what does that mean, for consumers to be able to capitalize on these ledger-based blockchain capabilities that would allow them to not just have access to their data but to empower them with taking these data elements to make decisions across large geographical regions – whether it’s for second opinions or to take part in research studies, etc.

There are specific use cases, and that’s how I think about blockchain, focusing on those use cases and finding some health systems that are willing to put into some of these solutions around blockchain. We’ll see where it goes.

Q. How about some lesser-hyped trends? Are there any dark horses or under-the-radar technologies you’re hoping to learn more about in Orlando?

A. There’s a broader movement around IoT – or IoMT, the internet of medical things, as we call it at the Center for Connected Medicine here at UPMC. In the past year, we did a series of studies and a webinar and hosted a tweet chat around IoMT. This could be a very interesting trend. It’s not getting a lot of hype right now. But how do we deal with this plethora of connected devices? Not just consumer devices, but also devices that are generating a lot of clinical data – blood glucometers, Bluetooth-enabled scales – inside and outside the health system?

There are a lot of conversations that need to be had there around security and privacy, but also interoperability. For instance, is this going to be a rerun of the interoperability challenges we’ve had in the EHR world? And then what are the opportunities to foster the right business models for remote patient monitoring and harnessing the data that are coming through these IoMT type devices? We’re doing a bunch of things there with companies such as Vivify Health. I think this is a place where there could be a lot of substance for encouraging newer care models.

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com

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