Is innovation possible in health IT? This is a common question that is aimed directly at the enormous size of the healthcare industry in the U.S. and the costs associated with enterprise software. Many feel that in a large industry with human lives in the balance real innovation is impossible because the bureaucracy is designed to prevent risk-taking behavior and maintain the status quo.
To illustrate the scope: in 2011, according to numbers provided by the Commonwealth Fund, the U.S. spent $2.7 trillion on healthcare, which is enough to make the industry the fifth-largest economy in the world, right between the GDPs of Germany and France.
Looking at those numbers and thinking about the 318 million residents who rely on the healthcare industry, it’s easy to see why so many people doubt real innovation is possible. Not surprisingly, especially if you read the headline, I don’t agree.
The healthcare system is not united under one umbrella like the federal government. It is made up of 5,724 hospitals of different sizes and locations in a free market economy – which is true, even under HITECH and the ACA. Each hospital has the ability to carve out technological innovation within their four walls, and that begins with the strategic plan and making forward-thinking decisions with technology.
There are varying software and hardware solutions available in the healthcare marketplace, each falling into a category of either
- Enough – performance improvements only, or
- Next generation – performance transformation plus strategic innovation
Choosing an appropriate solution should be more than finding “adequate.” Your IT infrastructure should be able to keep pace with the living, changing documents that form an organization’s strategic plans. You know… prepare the future while providing for today.
A hospital’s infrastructure should be designed to make forward-thinking plans a reality without omitting key priorities. Planning for and creating a robust and flexible base gives hospitals a strategic advantage and the IT team is equipped to implement new workflows and new technologies that create innovative solutions for caregivers.
Key Action 1: Review your strategic plans to determine which goals lack achievement.
Key Action 2: Evaluate your current infrastructure to see if current technology can truly achieve each strategic objective.
Key Action 3: Define your IT infrastructure goals. Are they designed to: Enable progress? Stay cost-effective? Remain simply adequate?
Key Action 4: Update and improve your infrastructure accordingly.
Key Action 5: Ensure key staff members are thoroughly trained and entrusted to implement new technologies and improve legacy systems.
David Blumenthal, M.D., former head of the ONC and current president of The Commonwealth Fund, wrote:
"We are pretty tough on ourselves and our collective projects in the U.S. But we don’t often take into account the incredible effort required to move the health care needle, or the enormous value in human and economic terms of seemingly modest progress."
This is true when looking at healthcare on a national scale. It is said that real innovation happens on the fringes of what is possible. By making bold decisions and employing a maverick spirit outside of “the herd,” real innovation is possible within your hospital. Successful examples can be found everyday if you look for the solutions and work to avoid the ample negativity in the industry.