Bold Moves by IBM and Pointed Commentary from Humana’s CEO Frame HIMSS 2015

APR 20

With HIMSS 2015 in the rearview mirror, it makes sense to share a few observations from the event and musings on the potential industry implications for followers of TripleTree research.

For the uninitiated, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Annual Conference and Exhibition is a spectacle to behold.  With over 1,200 vendor exhibitors and approximately 40,000 attendees the event is an all-in-one market education, executive networking and deal making venue surrounded by a sprawling exhibit floor of healthcare vendor solutions. Below are three key takeaways.

  • Welcome to Healthcare, IBM! IBM stunned HIMSS-goers Monday with its acquisition announcements related to Explorys and Phytel (pending) – where both will become cornerstones for its newly minted Watson Health.


    • Explorys’ cloud-based big data and analytics platform will fuel Watson’s cognitive capabilities by adding one of the largest clinical data sets in the world to Watson’s ’Health Cloud‘ as well as an advanced search and processing engine.
    • Phytel will bring analytics focused on gaps in care and broader population health management as well as outreach and patient engagement competencies needed to motivate patient action.

    There are two reasons why we think IBM’s announcement is intriguing.  First, IBM is a tech giant that had previously remained largely on the sidelines for M&A in healthcare. Its splash was a very visible move and one that was a clear pronouncement of intention, though IBM had quietly been in healthcare with its technology stack, a few specialized offerings and outsourced services. It also could portend greater activity from the enterprise software sector in general as IBM, SAP, Oracle and others may finally come around to enormous opportunities for vertical solutions in healthcare. Second, IBM has catapulted forward the Watson capabilities, which promise immense potential to derive individualized health insights but have not yet demonstrated significant market traction. In addition to the acquisitions, IBM simultaneously announced that it is partnering with Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic to generate Big Data-driven insights to drive new consumer and medical device applications and solutions. More is certainly to come from IBM.

  • A Coming-Out Party for Transcend and Transcend Insights for Humana. Late last month, Humana announced the formation of Transcend (formerly known as the Humana Management Services Organization), which seeks to help physicians successfully transition to value-based care, and Transcend Insights (the combination of Humana subsidiaries Certify Data Systems, Anvita Health and nliven systems), which offers technology to providers that give real-time clinical insights to improve population health and clinical outcomes. The HIMSS audience saw the new unit’s splashy entrance into the market with its stylish, Transcend Insights-branded booth. While many at HIMSS quickly judged Transcend Insights as ‘Humana’s Optum’, they may have missed the more subtle and highly strategic backdrop of Humana CEO Bruce Broussard’s keynote address. He made clear that both payers and providers have been part of the problem in healthcare and that only through new business models can the industry change the paradigm. Humana, Broussard assured the audience, is in the business of improving health outcomes – hence the moves of Transcend and Transcend Insights to simplify population health and help providers transition to value-based care. It is abundantly clear that Humana believes there is a strong industry need for an agent of change for health improvement. Interesting days are ahead for Humana and the industry at large.
  • Provider-Based Population Health Management Isn’t Going Away. In news that will surprise no one, population health management was again a dominant theme at this year’s conference, well beyond the buzz of IBM acquiring two leading PHM related companies. Compared to the 2014 conference, there are even more new and emerging vendors offering tools to providers to manage population health, improve outcomes, and lower costs. What is perhaps most striking about this landscape of innovative offerings is a strong sense that providers are in the very early innings of forming population health management strategies and can scarcely determine their exact needs for technology and tools. Providers need the help of services vendors who can help guide them on a path to population health and value-based care and to help them with the challenging work of transforming clinical practices and administrative operations. Along that journey to value-based care, provider-based PHM technology will be a powerful enabler but is unlikely to be the answer in and of itself.

Our team looks forward to seeing how these moves and the broader healthcare IT landscape evolves over the next 12 months – until then, let us know what you think.

Michael Hughey
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