Health IT

HIMSS15 Reflection: Healthcare Needs Simple Solutions

As I walked out of HIMSS15 at the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago this week, I had a new sense of empathy for healthcare buyers. Finding the signal within the noise of the show has never been more challenging. Instead of the useful, clear information needed to help buyers make informed decisions, there were […]

As I walked out of HIMSS15 at the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago this week, I had a new sense of empathy for healthcare buyers. Finding the signal within the noise of the show has never been more challenging. Instead of the useful, clear information needed to help buyers make informed decisions, there were buzzwords, flashy videos, scones, and jet skis. This presents real challenges for buyers and emerging companies. It is unfortunate that a buyer must be extremely well educated in a space, asking very specific questions to differentiate what a vendor really can deliver vs. what they cannot. While buyers are hopeful one vendor will “do it all” and vendors are claiming to do so, it is clear that no single vendor can do everything well. If they are attempting this, unfortunately, it tends to get very complex and frustrating for the end-user providers and patients. Healthcare needs simple solutions to its complex problems.

Why is healthcare different?

Think about your daily life. Have you decided to use any one vendor to meet your technology needs? I am confident you have not. Look at your smartphone – how many applications do you have? Companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, and others offer suites of products, and are indeed trying to do everything, however, as consumers we choose to use different applications that are straightforward and the best at the specific job to be done.

A simple solution doesn’t mean simple mindedness. The complexities of healthcare cannot be ignored, and I will never downplay the uniqueness of this market. However, as vendors, we do need to think about core job patients and providers are trying to get done and develop straightforward solutions to help these stakeholders. We shouldn’t follow trends or try to keep up with the Joneses. We should be developing solutions that are helping provider and patients with the root challenges they are trying to solve.

What are the components of a “simple solution”?

  • Clear Focus: it is very clear the problem a vendor is solving and their approach to doing so.
  • Easy and quick to implement: no technical support needed by a healthcare organization, no integration required, no investment in hardware.
  • Intuitive to use: there should be no need for extensive training with a straightforward solution with a user interface that has the “look and feel” of solutions providers and patients use in other facets of their lives.
  • Real: these solutions can be demonstrated to buyers in real-time. No screen shots, no VMWare. Show it to me.

Behind the scenes these solutions may be technically complex, however to the end user they are straightforward.

We need to encourage our industry to act like we do in our daily lives. Vendors should be clear, transparent, and bring real value. Buyers should be open-minded and get back to the core problem they are trying to solve and determine who is best positioned to get them there. Technology is not to make your life complicated. It should make things easier, faster, and cheaper. Complicated solutions are not the right answer.

The Next Generation

Vendors are repositioning themselves in new spaces in recognition of where healthcare information technology needs to go. For example, “population health” was a term posted in an array of booths across the HIMSS exhibit hall. Like many catch phases, it’s meaning is becoming diluted and compromised. It’s clear that vendors have seen the results of early population health solutions, which are delivering key insights into gaps in care and system economics, however now everyone is trying to get on board which, in turn, is bringing a lot of noise.

Leading healthcare organizations are drowning in population health data. The focus needs to shift to making this data actionable and providing lightweight tools to help providers operate more efficiently and deliver highly reliable team-based care as patients move across the continuum. We need new purpose-built solutions for the challenges of today’s environment

At the beginning of the show there were announcements of consolidation and vendor acquisitions. This is a good thing; we’ll see the older platforms fade and healthcare transformed with the emergence of next generation solutions. I was pleased to see a number of smaller companies developing solutions seeking the promise of helping teams coordinate care more effectively and engage patients in a meaningful way.

Innovation does not equal complexity. Keep it simple.

As one of our founders and board members, Professor Clayton Christensen has stated, “Healthcare needs more disruptive innovation. It’s the process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of the market and then relentlessly moves up market with enhanced experiences to displace established competitors.” The simple solutions are emerging and the next generation is on the move. I encourage fellow entrepreneurs to be steadfast and healthcare organizations to be open to entertaining new, simple technologies to solve the complex problems they are facing. I think this is the only way we’ll attain the quadruple aim.

Image credit to Leslie Baker.