The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally, and are not necessarily representative of Texas Health Resources or its subsidiaries.
Why Healthcare IT Lags
By Ed Marx
Last week, one of our hospitals went live on CPOE. My boss and I were there as part of the ribbon cutting ceremony and to commend IT and the hospital for their hard work. When we met in the entryway, he eyed my attire with surprise. I was wearing scrubs, a violation of the dress code.
“Ed,” he said. “I bet you caused a lot of trouble growing up.”
“Yes, I did.” I liked coloring outside lines then; and I still do today.
But, why do I? Shouldn’t a leader be a good model to his followers?
I attended a national meeting with my healthcare IT (HIT) peers. Had you been a casual observer, however, you would not have pegged us as technology leaders. For all anyone could tell, we were glockenspiel salespersons. Our celebrated keynote, the government czar encouraging the adoption of HIT, was relying upon paper notes—yes, the physician who rightly wants our nation to lose the paper chart in favor of the electronic health record used hardcopy notes. And the audience was copiously taking notes…on paper. Need I say more?
Besides coloring outside the lines, I’m a fierce competitor. I aim to win every race I start. I’ll only accept defeat gracefully if I know I’ve poured my all into the competition. When I cross that finish, my tank had better be empty. In the same way, the lack of HIT progress aggravates the heck out of me.
Why are we so far behind other industries? Look in the mirror. That’s right. Time to come clean. It’s because of you and me. Granted, there are numerous other valid excuses, and I will touch on a few. But at the end of the day, the buck stops with us. When I lose a race, I don’t blame my blister, my clothes, the event management, the weather, the course, the timing chip, my equipment. I lost because of me.
Stop reading and let this sink in. You and I are the reason HIT lags.
But there’s hope. If HIT lags because of us, we can reverse the situation and make IT strategic in our industry and career.
When I asked my Tweeters and Yammers for ideas, here’s what they sent. Thanks to all of you.
Some reasons why we lag:
CIO’s not leading
CIO’s not culturally relevant
CIO’s reporting to CFOs
C-Suite not understanding or acknowledging HIT strategic value
CIO’s fear of failure
Leaders tend to be older and less receptive to technology
Decision makers often have clinical backgrounds, an area that has a bias for rigor, analysis, and is slow to change
· Healthcare Complexity
Burdensome government regulations stifle attention and consume financial resources
Payment systems and processes
Lack of standardization
Piecemeal approach to application deployment
Clinical and legal liability
Fragmentation – hospitals are silos of individual services, often used by independent practioners, all with differing cost and profit structures
Complexity is so great that leaders don’t want to deal with it
Incentives to innovate and minimize inefficiencies, if they exist, are contained to a specific workstream – not the entire ecosystem
Adoption of any new treatment or procedure in medicine has traditionally been slow because of the need for long-term testing and proving of safety and efficacy. This approach has transferred to the adoption of anything “non-medical”, new or different like HIT
· Financial Resources
Lack of margin to focus on innovation
HIT investments are not appropriately correlated to outcomes
Historical under investment
· Healthcare Culture
Healthcare by nature is precise, protocol-driven, and we teach the need to be "in control" at all times. While this is true for clinical care, the same mentality in other areas (IT) hinder change
A corollary to the above- By nature, people with these characteristics self-select into healthcare, making the climb that much more steep
A schism exists between IT and those who provide hands-on caring service to patients
Much like the traditions connected with our clinical training counterparts, HIT leaders are still promoted and recognized for experience and longevity
Social-cultural issues; change resistant
"High touch" aspect of healthcare views HIT as intrusive
HIT must be proven safe before it can be used, where as in other industries, if you test and fail there’s little harm
Waiting for next big thing
Lack of market-driven demand
Knowing and holding information is power and HIT threatens that power by enabling easy sharing of information
CIOs are in a unique and coveted position that allows us to observe and tie together the healthcare ecosystem, first within our own gates, and then beyond. The single biggest change agent to move HIT from laggard to leader is not healthcare reform. It’s you.
Ways to reverse our situation:
· Stop throwing up your hands and blaming the environment
· Take responsibility
· Take calculated risks and color outside the lines
· Take proactive actions internally and externally at the local, state, and national levels
· Challenge the status quo
· Tackle the tough issues and demonstrate HIT investment value realization
· Model innovation and technology use
· Get deeply involved with your clinicians and live their processes
· Be disruptive
· Stop traditional hiring and promotion practices. Instead, favor talent
· Look outside of healthcare for new ideas
By the way, I wore scrubs at the GoLive so no one would mistake me for a chaplain, a lawyer, or a glockenspiel dealer. The color matched the rest of the IT team on the ground and fosters a close working relationship with clinical staff. I was proud to wear it, to show I cared. And because I love to surprise my people.
So…I commission you to help your organization and physicians understand the strategic value of HIT. You hold the salve to heal what ails healthcare today.
Ed Marx is senior vice president and CIO at Texas Health Resources in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. (Use the “add a comment” function at the bottom of each post.) You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook, and you can follow him via Twitter – User Name “marxists.”