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February 22, 2013 Readers Write 3 Comments

What Would Steve Jobs Say?  
By Tom Furr

2-22-2013 6-50-05 PM

When you purchase a song on your iPhone, do you have to search for it in one application then toggle over to a different application to pay for the tune and then toggle over to another application to listen it? The answer is no. The brilliance of iTunes is that you can do it all within that one application. It is a single application that performs multiple tasks.

What iTunes is and how it works did occur to me while at a conference on “healthcare innovation.” All the speakers there talked about how users would have to exit out of or toggle from the practice management software to log into a payment portal after having downloaded data.

I wondered what Steve Jobs would say about the user experience in healthcare? I imagine it would not be favorable. I asked my fellow attendees this very question. The standard response was, “This is just how healthcare works.” To me, this is just unacceptable.

There are about 300 vendors offering practice management software. I suspect most of those applications require users to toggle out to access a partner’s application. All this raises the question: why don’t practice management software vendors make the user experience a selling point?

A little reconnaissance will show that your users do not like to toggle from application to application. Case in point: moving from your practice management software to a billing application or a clearinghouse portal and then to a reconciliation spreadsheet. Toggle. Toggle. Toggle. Users want to see and do everything on one screen within the practice management software. Have it all in one place.

If you’re not attuned to the usage preferences of those dealing with your software every day, you are putting your long-term viability at risk. A kludgy user experience puts vendors at risk with the rise of new, innovative vendors willing to address design and usability as Steve Jobs did religiously.

Usability is what differentiates and provides an edge when competing for users and market share. I would suggest you look at how BlackBerry is doing today versus Apple or Samsung to see just how much value your consumers place on ease of use.

Like Apple has done, how do you keep your current customers fiercely loyal to your product, attract new ones, and drive your competitors crazy trying to keep up? Keep their experience with your product in mind at all times and move quickly to embed all functions of their day into your practice management software and eliminate the need to toggle. You create a unified user experience, put up significant barriers to switching, and drive greater revenue as your customers become your greatest salespeople. Just like Apple.

It’s worth noting the words of Steve Jobs: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and follower.” It’s time for you to be the innovator.

Tom Furr is CEO of PatientPay of Durham, NC.

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Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. You’re right, one application should do everything. iTunes is a giant, confusing, resource-hogging kludge, and our EMRs should be too.

    There is one EMR that does everything in a single application: Epic. I’ve always said they’re the Apple of EMRs, since they don’t support any uses cases except the ones they consider important and since they cost an arm and a leg.

  2. I agree that EMR vendors have given little thought to user experience and could use an overhaul. But I think you’re giving Jobs and Apple way too much credit. Apple’s brilliance stems from the iPhone, the App Store, designing elegant form factors, and marketing/brand discipline. I think integration with AppStore is probably THE most significant step they took. But I think it stops there. The iPad is just a bigger iPhone and using the soft keyboard is maddening. iTunes on the desktop is one of the worst user experiences I have experienced – I can’t imagine an app that makes music less fun. Their desktop OS is just not intuitive unless it was your first machine and it updates as frequently as Windows. Their Dev tools cannot touch Microsoft’s or Oracle’s. Their web/cloud strategy has been a flop.

    The iPhone was brilliant because it took something that should be simple (making phone calls) and KEPT IT SIMPLE. Every other phone manufacturer butchered it. It was more about taking away than adding. Building an EMR is an entirely different animal. There is nothing simple about it and the industry is very fragmented by specialties.

  3. I don’t know what Steve Jobs would say about the Healthcare IT, but I do know what Lewis Carroll would:

    “If seven maids with seven mops
    Swept it for half a year.
    Do you suppose,” the Walrus said,
    “That they could get it clear?”
    “I doubt it,” said the Carpenter,
    And shed a bitter tear.

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