Technology does not solve problems. People solve problems. Therein lays the paradox of health IT, e.g. technology increases productivity. Workflow processes flow out of people, not machines. Until IT-enabled processes work to support teamwork, care coordination and innovation, productivity will continue to lag, according to Spencer S. Jones, PhD, from Rand in Boston, and colleagues. They shared their perspective in the New England Journal of Medicine recently.
Jones, et. al., set out to explain the “IT productivity paradox” which fell into three categories: mismeasurement, mismanagement and poor usability.
Mismeasurement. Focusing on service outputs through the use of more sophisticated data helped resolve the original IT productivity paradox, stated the authors. For example, in determining the value of healthcare, understanding how access and convenience affect patients has proven to be a superior indicator to simply counting the number of medical imaging tests ordered.
Mismanagement. Without proper training, healthcare professionals are tempted to simply digitize the paperwork and call it a day. Recognizing that healthcare IT means more than swapping out the medical record cabinet for a computer is the first step to realizing the benefits of healthcare IT. Using technology to bring patients and physicians together through interactive patient portals has the potential to improve quality and lower costs with more accessibility and greater convenience.
Usability. This concept has taken on a new meaning with the advent of the Internet. In the early days of the commercial Web, user-centric design was not a consideration. Similarly, the first smartphones lacked the high-definition touchscreens we see today.
According to the authors, new healthcare IT systems risk failure if usability isn’t carefully addressed. User-centered design calls for end users to be involved in every stage of product development.
People First, Then Technology
As with anything new, there exists a learning curve. It helps to be realistic in our expectations of exactly what problems technology can solve. Until robots can empathize with a patient’s concerns, we recommend starting with the people you’ve got to resolve your organization’s IT conundrum.
What are your thoughts on how to solve the healthcare IT paradox? I encourage you to share your thoughts, via a comment below.