Four weeks ago I wrote about how cloud computing can help stop coronavirus.
Since then, infections have exploded from around 44,000 to over 111,000 with over 4,000 deaths in over 90 countries worldwide – with 600+ confirmed cases in the United States and counting.
With the announcement of the HIMSS conference cancellation the healthcare IT industry is hit hard. Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) is the super bowl of healthcare tech. 45,000 attendees from 50 countries were scheduled to fly into Orlando and spend 5 days immersed in innovative healthcare tech – and of course, shop around on the Expo floor.
For many companies, the HIMSS event is the lifeline of their sales pipeline for the entire year – we’re talking tons of leads. Not having HIMSS means major threats to healthcare technology company revenue.
As pandemic fears grip the nation, two radically different perspectives have emerged in regards to the new virus.
The first group believes that the virus itself is not a big deal, but the hysteria around it is a problem. Meanwhile, the second group is clearing out Costco aisles, stocking up on canned goods and toilet paper, and preparing for chaos.
Let’s take a look at what both sides have to say.
Perspective One: Skeptical Sammy
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this flu season there were approximately 32 million cases and 18,000 deaths.
COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, has seen around 111,000 cases and has killed less than 4,000 so far, the majority of deaths being in the ill and elderly population.
And that’s just reported cases. Over 80% of reported cases are said to be mild without need for hospitalization. Imagine how many people are infected and haven’t reported it.
Then there’s a shortage of tests. At the time of this writing, fewer than 2000 people in the U.S. have actually been tested, with strict testing qualifications focused on travelers. Many people showing symptoms have been denied tests.
Currently 3,000 people in New York City alone are under ‘precautionary quarantine’ but haven’t been able to get tested, with thousands more spread out across the country. “The more you test, the more you will find,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said recently.
There’s also evidence that children are carrying the coronavirus but not showing symptoms of the COVID-19 disease.
All of this points to the fact that the infection rate is actually much higher than is being reported, making the death rate much, much lower than the proposed 3.4%. Meaning the disease is hardly deadly at all.
Coronavirus is just a glorified flu with a trendy brand name. It’s a flu that went viral. Literally.
Even smart people like Elon Musk say the coronavirus panic is “dumb.”
R.I.P. HIMSS2020; death by national hysteria. It would’ve been a great event.
Perspective Two: Hysterical Henry
Yes the death rate is proposed to be 3.4%, but over 43,000 people are still sick. You have to look at closed cases to get an accurate idea of the death rate. Right now that’s 6%.
Plus, the flu is predictable. We know when it’s going to hit each year and that it’s going to disappear when Spring sets in. We can predict what the demand for medical care will be each flu season and we can vaccinate.
With coronavirus, we have no idea if it’s going to stop or what the demand for healthcare will look like if it doesn’t. Will hospitals have enough resources to care for the sick? And what will happen to societal operations as more businesses shut down shop? As China shuts down factories our businesses depend on?
Tech folks can work from home, but what about when food manufacturers and grocery stores start outbreaking and closing their doors? Will we have a shortage of food? We should stock up just in case.
And if the pathogen does have seasonal properties and disappears with the Spring, then that just means it’ll be back next winter with a vengeance.
There’s just too many unknowns. It was the right thing for HIMSS to get canceled.
Back to Reality
Most people’s heads are somewhere in between the two extremes, agreeing overall that containment would be optimal given the amount of unknowns. Although the hysteria around it may be more dangerous than the disease itself.
Still, companies such as Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft are asking their Seattle-based employees to work from home and implementing travel restriction policies for all employees in response to concerns around the virus.
Sad as it is, the general consensus is that canceling HIMSS was the right thing to do. It’s best to take precautions in these situations.
Although we all worked hard and wish things could have been different.
What Can Healthcare Tech Take Away?
Whether this is the next pandemic or just a flu with a good PR team, only time will tell. In the meantime, there’s a lot of lessons the healthcare tech industry can take away from the HIMSS cancellation.
We need to be more prepared to deal with pandemics no matter what. And as an industry, we need to be focused on developing technology solutions for disease detection, tracking, and prevention.
And we need greater emphasis on data interoperability. Every time a crisis happens, the world is reminded of why it’s so important for systems and entities to share information. We learned this lesson when 9/11 happened. Data interoperability can help us identify problems earlier and get a handle on mitigation before issues get out of control.
If you’re a healthcare organization looking to modernize your data interoperability infrastructure, check out this on-demand demo of Cloudticity’s cloud-native healthcare data interoperability solution. Or reach out for a free consultation.