Healthcare IT needs a little more Silicon, not Silicone

Horrible plastic surgery puns aside, there is a lot to be learned from some of the most user friendly applications out there.

Currently in Healthcare IT has a very 1990’s way of developing and thinking about software. We are still trying to force workflows into software, instead of trying to use software to improve workflows. If there is one thing that I know for sure, it is that most of the time it is much easier to change software than it is to change people’s habits.

There is also a big lag in the design of healthcare software solutions, again some look like my Windows 3.1 machine. Or worse, they resemble my very first MS-DOS machine. Those of you who have worked with either of those systems know that they are slow and clunky — and worst of all — confusing. While the rest of the world has moved out of this mode of design and into more deliberate and user centric design, having to use these kind of software systems as a non technical user can be very nearly rage inducing. Or just rage inducing. Especially when your every day technology runs closer to the Apple model of beauty and the Google model of efficiency.

So why do we keep doing this? 

There are a lot of reasons that Healthcare IT and software seem to be stuck in a rut, below are just a few
1. Security — Much like the financial sector, which is also struggling in terms of keeping up with the IT times, there is a lot of security around Protected Health Information (PHI). This is not a bad thing, but it does make it difficult to create solutions that are as smooth and easily accessible as some of the more public ones like Facebook and Twitter.
2. Entrenchment — A lot of times it is difficult to change the way something has ‘always been done’ either because people think it will only work that way or there are other barriers to innovation.
3. Lack of understanding — Understanding anyone’s job and processes of that job is hard work. It takes a lot of empathy, interest and time for any one role. If you multiply that by the number of roles in a clinical or hospital setting it becomes even more difficult. Given the speed that the healthcare environment moves at as well, it is an even more difficult thing to understand.

How do we fix it?

Interestingly enough fixing security is fairly easy with some of the new technologies we have coming out. Especially the biometric ones that key devices to a particular person’s fingerprint, voice or some other unchangeable physical feature. I will leave an in-depth conversation on this for another time.
Entrenchment and a lack of understanding are usually the two biggest factors that keep people from innovation, because you can’t change what you don’t understand and you can’t change people who don’t want to change. These hurdles are the ones that we have to focus on in order to change the software landscape of healthcare from the 1990’s to the 2010’s.

To do this, we are going to need a few things to engender adoption of new products. The first and foremost is an understanding of the processes that the doctors and their support staff do — day in and day out. The second will be the ability to show our providers and their staff the value this new technology will bring to them, personally, rather than the normal overreaching and broad statements of technology. If you would like to know how to complete both of these tasks — it’s simple:

Relationships.

It’s how Facebook makes you want to log on every day, how Uber helps you trust a stranger to drive you across town and how Air BnB gets you to invite strangers into your home. It’s something that the startups of Silicon Valley have understood for a long time, and it’s high time that Healthcare IT injected a little into itself. 

With strong relationships with your client base you are much more privy to their processes and they feel confident enough with you to give you very candid and helpful feedback. This means that instead of guessing at their problems and sticking points, you can know them, and fix them directly, rather than dictate a process that they must now change to and follow. This allows you to focus on what needs to be fixed and allows a very simple solution for complex issues.

Once you have addressed pain points and fixed problems that no one has even thought of yet, you have to worry very little about adoption rates as your customers will become your best advocates, because everyone likes using something that makes life easier.

(Noel Hollis is a Product Manager at EVOQ Md — the creators of the blynq app — a simple solution to one of healthcare’s biggest problems — connections)

**The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of EVOQ Md or it’s affiliates**