It’s that time of year again, when students and teachers head back to the classroom after eight to ten weeks off. For me, this late August period always invokes two distinct feelings: nostalgia (for those ‘good old days’) and motivation, spurred by the sense of new beginnings inherent to every fresh fall semester.
Healthcare and health IT aren’t so lucky as to have summers off, but there are still some major parallels between those industries and the U.S. school system. For starters, education in this country is subject to just as much scrutiny, just as much proposed reform and just as much criticism as healthcare is.
There’s no denying that they’re both flawed fields, but HIT could certainly learn a few valuable lessons from the education system in this ‘back to school’ moment.
Whether you’re a student in kindergarten or law school, you’re expected to work well with others. Why aren’t health IT vendors held to the same standard?
The continuing, pervasive lack of interoperability and connectivity in HIT is crippling the progress of the industry. Securely exchanging health data or billing information between systems of differing IT providers is such a challenge that chart transfers are usually still executed by fax machine, snail mail and compact disc.
So long as software vendors refuse to play well in the sandbox together, healthcare IT will never reach its full potential when it comes to data analysis and health information exchange.
Achieving an interoperable future will require that vendors become willing to let their systems work together – something that’s currently happening much more easily in the classroom than in the software.
Keeping it Simple
Educators know that students are more likely to retain information when it’s presented clearly and straightforwardly. Consider the designs of your textbooks in high school and early college, which laid out information with vibrant visuals that drew your eye to the most pertinent information.
Compare those colorful textbooks to the average medical practice management system or EHR platform and you’ll be sorely disappointed.
“Most of the systems are so busy, with so much information on the screen, that your eyes sort of glaze over when you look at them,” says Matt Dallman, a medical billing company owner.
The healthcare technology industry is largely dominated by outdated solutions that make it difficult for users to know what tasks require immediate attention. An industry-wide focus on simplified, common-sense design could change that, for the benefit of software users and patients nationwide.
Embracing Change to Move Forward
Want to go from tenth grade to eleventh, but don’t want to alter your outlook, increase your level of knowledge or enhance your skills? Then too bad for you.
The fact that students must adapt in order to advance is inherent to the entire concept of education. But some of the most popular, expensive healthcare IT systems in the marketplace are the most staid and outmoded.
Despite the remarkable advances in software development over the past fifty years, most of today’s legacy healthcare IT systems, including many EHRs, were built using a programming language known as MUMPS, which was created in the 1960s.
Healthcare is a rapidly evolving industry, enduring a wealth of regulatory changes. How can technology that’s obsolete in other sectors exist in an industry so subject to change? If health IT intends to achieve forward progress, it must ‘graduate’ to embrace modern, web-based technologies.
Making it Enjoyable
In this age of real-time leisure and entertainment options for adolescents – instantly downloadable movies, on-demand music, immediate text message communication – a high school teacher who tries to ‘chalk and talk’ through a lesson is sure to fail.
Educators know that, at least some of the time, learning has to be fun. Meanwhile, the majority of health IT systems available today are far from pleasurable to use.
Most U.S. business sectors are privy to high-usability software systems, but the majority of HIT companies have failed to value the end user’s experience. That’s a major problem in our smartphone culture, where pleasing-to-the-eye, fun to use technology is by our sides 24 hours a day.
Just as the experiences of students in a classroom affect their ultimate educational outcomes, the experiences of clients on a health IT system affect their ultimate user results. Doctors who hate the software they use every day are more likely to make mistakes with it, putting patients at risk.
At CareCloud, we believe software should be beautiful and fun to look at. We think that vendors should work together toward a connected healthcare system; that healthcare solutions should be simple and intuitive to use; and that advanced technology is key to keeping pace with the changes facing the healthcare industry.
Hopefully we’re teaching the other HIT vendors a lesson.