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Doctors’ reluctance to jump on the healthcare IT bandwagon is still baffling, in spite of the missteps made by IT professionals, from outside the industry. We live in a computer-dominated world. Moving patient records from a database to the cloud sounds like a huge leap to doctors who have to worry about HIPAA and other privacy concerns. Really, it’s just the next logical step. As the population grows, so does the need for more space to store important information, including patient records. But that’s just one aspect of healthcare IT. There are many others for which developers are trying to create solutions. What’s holding them back? They don’t know anything about the industry they’re trying to serve.
John Sculley, former Apple and PepsiCo CEO, discussed the need for developers to understand the healthcare industry before they can start creating viable solutions in his keynote speech at the Digital Health Summit adjunct to the 2012 International CES.
Every industry has its own needs, and developers should always take time to acquire deep knowledge of the industries they want to serve, or they should get together with those who already have deep knowledge of those industries. The same holds true for the healthcare industry. In order for developers to succeed at creating solutions that make sense for the healthcare industry, they have to collaborate with people who know it, like doctors, nurses, phlebotomists, physical therapists, even billers and coders could offer valuable insights, depending on the kind of healthcare IT solution the developers are trying to create.
Sculley pointed to Google Health as a solution that failed. One reason it failed is because neither doctors nor patients trusted that the patients’ personal health records would be secure. It probably didn’t help that Google is, first and foremost, a search engine, a fact that is always hovering in the backs of our minds. Conversely, Microsoft’s Health Vault appears to be a success. The company has even made it possible for customers to log in through their Facebook accounts.
Developers need to focus more on creating solutions that will provide positive user experiences than on creating solutions that have all the bells and whistles but aren’t user friendly or engaging.
Not every healthcare IT solution that’s presented will succeed. But in the entrepreneurial world, failure is viewed as an asset, not a liability. And Sculley advises those who try and fail to get back out there and try again. The healthcare industry’s tendency to concentrate more on treatment than on preventive care leaves the door wide open for developers to work with doctors to come up with a solution that will turn the focus away from treatment and toward preventive care for healthy patients and proper maintenance for patients with chronic illnesses.
There are a lot of IT professionals with great ideas for how to address major pain points in the healthcare industry. But if they really want those ideas work, they’ll have to get together with doctors and other healthcare workers who can help them understand the industry and its needs.