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Fitbit Data Being Used In Personal Injury Case

Posted on December 8, 2014 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Lately, there’s been a lot of debate over whether data from wearable health bands is useful to clinicians or only benefits the consumer user. On the one hand, there are those that say that a patient’s medical care could be improved if doctors had data on their activity levels, heart rate, respirations and other standard metrics. Others, meanwhile, suggest that unless it can be integrated into an EMR and made usable, such data is just a distraction from other more important health indicators.

What hasn’t come up in these debates, but might far more frequently in the future,  is the idea that health band data can be used in personal injury cases to show the effects of an accident on a plaintiff. According to Forbes, a law firm in Calgary is working on what may be the first personal injury case to leverage smart band data, in this case activity data from a Fitbit.

The plaintiff, a young woman, was injured in an accident four years ago. While Fitbit hadn’t entered the market yet, her lawyers at McLeod Law believe they can establish the fact that she led an active lifestyle prior to her accident. They’ve now started processing data from her Fitbit to show that her activity levels have fallen under the baseline for someone of her age and profession.

It’s worth noting that rather than using Fitbit data directly, they’re processing it using analytics platform Vivametrica, which uses public research to compare people’s activity data with that of the general population. (Its core business is to analyze data from wearable sensor devices for the assessment of health and wellness.) The plaintiff will share her Fitbit data with Vivametrica for several months to present a rich picture of her activities.

Using even analyzed, processed data generated by a smart band is “unique,” according to her attorneys. “Till now we’ve always had to rely on clinical interpretation,” says Simon Muller of McLeod Law. “Now we’re looking at longer periods of time to the course of the day, and we have hard data.”

But even if the woman wins her case, there could be a downside to this trend. As Forbes notes, insurers will want wearable device data as much as plaintiffs will, and while they can’t force claimants to wear health bands, they can request a court order demanding the data from whoever holds the data. Dr. Rick Hu, co-founder and CEO of Vivametrica, tells Forbes that his company wouldn’t release such data, but doesn’t explain how he will be able to refuse to honor a court-ordered disclosure.

In fact, wearable devices could become a “black box” for the human body, according to Matthew Pearn, an associate lawyer with Canadian claims processing firm Foster & Company. In a piece for an insurance magazine, Pearn points out that it’s not clear, at least in his country, what privacy rights the wearers of health bands maintain over the data they generate once they file a personal injury suit.

Meanwhile, it’s still not clear how HIPAA protections apply to such data in the US. When FierceHealthIT recently spoke with Deven McGraw, a partner in the healthcare practice of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, she pointed out that HIPAA only regulates data “in the hands of, with the control of, or within the purview of a medical provider, a health plan or other covered entity under the law.”  In other words, once the wearable data makes it into the doctor’s record, HIPAA protections are in force, but until then they are not.

All told, it’s pretty sobering to consider that millions of consumers are generating wearables data without knowing how vulnerable it is.

By Supporting Digital Health, EMRs To Create Collective Savings of $78B Over Next Five Years

Posted on December 1, 2014 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Here’s the news EMR proponents have been insisting would emerge someday, justifying their long-suffering faith in the value of such systems.  A new study from Juniper Research has concluded that EMRs will save $78 billion cumulatively across the globe over the next five years, largely by connecting digital health technologies together.

While I’m tempted to get cynical about this — my poor heart has been broken by so many unsupportable or conflicting claims regarding EMR savings over the years — I think the study definitely bears examination. If digital health technologies like smart watches, fitness trackers, sensor-laden clothing, smart mobile health apps, remote monitoring and telemedicine share a common backbone that serves clinicians, the study’s conclusions look reasonable on first glance.

According to Juniper, the growth of ACOs is pushing providers to think on a population health level and that, in turn, is propelling them to adopt digital health tech.  And it’s not just top healthcare leaders that are getting excited about digital health. Juniper found that over the last 18 months, healthcare workers have become significantly more engaged in digital healthcare.

But how will providers come to grips with the floods of data generated by these emerging technologies? Why, EMRs will do the job. “Advanced EHRs will provide the ‘glue’ to bring together the devices, stakeholders and medical records in the future connected healthcare environment,” according to Juniper report author Anthony Cox.

But it’s important to note that at present, EMRs aren’t likely to have the capacity sort out the growing flood of connected health data on their own. Instead, it appears that healthcare providers will have to rely on data intermediary platforms like Apple’s HealthKit, Samsung’s SAMI (Samsung Architecture for Multimodal Interactions) and Microsoft Health. In reality, it’s platforms like these, not EMRs, that are truly serving as the glue for far-flung digital health data.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that on reflection, my cynical take on the study is somewhat justified. While they’ll play a very important role, I believe that it’s disingenuous to suggest that EMRs themselves will create huge healthcare savings.

Sure, EMRs are ultimately where the buck stops, and unless digital health data can be consumed by doctors at an EMR console, they’re unlikely to use it. But even though using EMRs as the backbone for digital health collection and population health management sounds peachy, the truth is that EMR vendors are nowhere near ready to offer robust support for these efforts.

Yes, I believe that the combination of EMRs and digital health data will prove to be very powerful over time. And I also believe that platforms like HealthKit will help us get there. I even believe that the huge savings projected by Juniper is possible. I just think getting there will be a lot more awkward than the study makes it sound.

A Little Digital Health Conference (#DHC14) Twitter Roundup

Posted on November 17, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’m at the Digital Health Conference in NYC and the Twitter stream has been going strong (search #dhc14 on Twitter to see what I mean). Sometimes I forget how much more satisfying a conference is when there’s an active Twitter stream. It enhances a conference for me in so many ways. I thought it would be fun to point out a few of the tweets that struck me today (and there were a lot to choose from).


I do think New York has made a lot of progress with their HIE. Pretty amazing that they got $30 million of state funding for it. Do you know of other states that are making good progress on their state HIE?


Topol’s comment about cigarettes is interesting. I had to throw in the CVS reference. Right now it doesn’t seem that crazy, but I wonder if 10 years from now it will be just as crazy as Cleveland Clinic giving out cigarette pack holders.


I love imagery and this is great imagery that could inspire a lot of people. What I don’t think many tech people realize is that they’re going to need to work collaboratively with scientists, chemists and doctors to do surveillance on the blood stream. Talk about an area that needs multidisciplinary efforts.


The common error that we compare the new way against perfection as opposed to comparing the new way against the alternative (or the previous model). I’ve been seeing this problem come up over and over in healthcare IT.

Mobile EHR Use

Posted on November 14, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

One of the most fascinating sessions I attended recently was by Mihai Fonoage talking about the “Future of Mobile” at EMA Nation (Modernizing Medicine’s EHR user conference where I was keynote). At the start of the presentation, Mihai provided a bunch of really interesting data points about the EMA EHR use on mobiles:

  • 3,500,000 Screens Viewed Daily
  • 50,000 New Visits Each Day
  • 35,000 Photos Taken Daily
  • 12,000 New Consents Each Day
  • 8,000 Rx Prescribed Daily

The most shocking number there is the 35,000 photos taken daily. That’s a lot of photos being stored in the EHR. It is worth noting that Modernizing Medicine has a huge footprint in dermatology where photos are very common and useful. Even so, that’s a lot of photos being taken and inputted into an EHR.

The other stats are nearly as astounding when you think that Modernizing Medicine is only in a small set of specialities. 3.5 million screens (similar to pageviews on a website) viewed daily is a lot of mobile EHR use. In fact, I asked Modernizing Medicine what percentage of their users used their desktop client and what percentage used their iPad interface. Modernizing Medicine estimated that 80% of their EHR use is on iPads. This is a hard number to verify, but I can’t tell you the number of people at EMA Nation I saw pull out their iPads and log into their EMA EHR during the user conference. You could tell that the EMA iPad app was their native screen.

I still remember when I first saw the ClearPractice iPad EHR called Nimble in 2010. It was the first time I’d seen someone really make a deep effort to do an EHR on the iPad. DrChrono has always made a big iPad EHR effort as well. I’d love to see how their iPad EHR use compares to the Modernizing Medicine EMA EHR numbers above. Can any other EHR vendor get even close to 80% EHR use on an iPad application or any of the numbers above?

I’d love to hear what you’re seeing and experiencing with EHR iPad and other mobile EHR use. Is Modernizing Medicine leading the pack here or are their other EHR competitors that are seeing similar adoption patterns with their mobile EHR product lines?

Full Disclosure: Modernizing Medicine is an advertiser on this site.

Microsoft Joins Battle for Wearables Market

Posted on November 4, 2014 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Following the lead of several other companies big and small, Microsoft has jumped into the wearables healthcare market with a watch, a fitness tracker and a cloud-based platform that condenses and shares data.

It’s little wonder. After a few years of uncertainty, it seems pretty clear that the wearables market is taking off like a rocket. In fact, 21% of US consumers own such a device, according to research by PricewaterhouseCoopers. That’s slightly higher that the number of consumers who bought tablets during the first two years after they launched, PwC reports. Not only Microsoft, but Apple and Samsung, as well as smaller players with a high profile — such as Fitbit — are poised to take the sector by storm.

Microsoft’s new entry is called Microsoft Health, a platform letting users store health and fitness data. The date in question is collected by a Microsoft Health app, available on Android, iOS and Windows Phone. The platform also gathers data generated from the Microsoft Band, a smart and designed to work with Microsoft’s new platform.

The idea behind pulling all of this data into a single platform is to integrate data from different devices and services in a smart way that allows consumers to generate insights into their health. The next step for Microsoft Health, execs say, is to connect all of that data in the platform to the tech giant’s HealthVault, a Web-based PHR, making it easier for people to share data with their healthcare providers.

Other tech giants are making their own wearables plays, of course. Google, for example, has released Google Fit, a fitness-based app designed to help users track physical activity. Google’s approach is  Android smart phones, relying on sensors built into the smart phones to detect if the user is walking, running or biking. Users can also connect to devices and apps like Noom Coach and Withings.

Apple, for its part, has launched HealthKit, its competing platform for collecting data from various health and fitness apps.  The data can then be accessed easily by Apple users through the company’s Health app (which comes installed on the iPhone 6.) HealthKit is designed to send data directly to hospital and doctor charts as well. It also plans to launch a smart watch early next year.

While there’s little doubt consumers are interested in the wearables themselves, it’s still not clear how enthusiastic they are about pulling all of their activity onto a single platform. Providers might be more excited about taming this gusher of data, which has proved pretty intimidating to doctors already overwhelmed with standard EMR information, but it remains to be seen whether they’ll find fitness information to be helpful.

All told, it looks like there will be a rollicking battle for the hearts and minds of wearables consumers, as well as the loyalty of providers.  As for me, I think it will be a year or two, at minimum, before we get a real sense of what consumers and providers really want from these devices.

Connected Health takes the stage at Partners symposium

Posted on October 28, 2014 I Written By

Andy Oram is an editor at O'Reilly Media, a highly respected book publisher and technology information provider. An employee of the company since 1992, Andy currently specializes in open source, software engineering, and health IT, but his editorial output has ranged from a legal guide covering intellectual property to a graphic novel about teenage hackers. His articles have appeared often on EMR & EHR and other blogs in the health IT space. Andy also writes often for O'Reilly's Radar site (http://radar.oreilly.com/) and other publications on policy issues related to the Internet and on trends affecting technical innovation and its effects on society. Print publications where his work has appeared include The Economist, Communications of the ACM, Copyright World, the Journal of Information Technology & Politics, Vanguardia Dossier, and Internet Law and Business. Conferences where he has presented talks include O'Reilly's Open Source Convention, FISL (Brazil), FOSDEM, and DebConf.

The Connected Health Symposium is not one of the larger health conferences, but it is one of the most respected. I met a number of leaders in health IT there who praised it for the conference scope and seriousness, and told me they were glad to see me there covering it.

Many issues in health IT and patient empowerment, however, are best learned not from any conference, but from the tussles and tears of everyday life. Let us hope no reader has undergone the personal experience of having her reports dismissed and of being misdiagnosed, as did several speakers at the conference.

But many of us have spent three hours on the phone with an insurer to approve a single medication shipment, or fought in vain to get the medical records that US law requires providers to give us, or watched our doctor fumble with his new EHR for fifteen minutes while trying to stay engaged with us.

It’s encouraging to see the progress of patient engagement at Massachusetts General Hospital, as reported by Gregg Meyer of Partners Healthcare System (the funder behind the Center for Connected Health that put on the symposium). But can small and rural providers struggling with cash flow join the movement?

These institutions would be comfortable using swyMe, a HIPAA-compliant telemedicine system that allows doctors to interview patients over everyday mobile devices and perhaps avoid a trip to the hospital. swyMe can also transmit audio and video from devices that EMTs can connect up to the phone. (Not many devices with the necessary hardware connectors are on the market, though.)

swyMe was one of the “innovators” highlighted in a conference demo. Jeffrey Urdan, COO of the company that makes it, told me later that he felt “low tech” compared to some of the fancy, expensive devices at the demo. But most of the providers in the US, and elsewhere, are more on swyMe’s level than theirs.

Another hurdle to forming connected teams that serve the patient is interoperability. A sign of the distance we have yet to come can be found in iCancerHealth, a service for cancer patients offered by Medocity. A free app is available to individuals, but the main integrated service is offered through providers or pharma companies doing clinical trials. The service includes such conveniences as medication tracking, treatment plans, a diary, audio and video connections to their physician, and even a way to form communities with other patients.

This is great, but iCancerHealth works with data from only one provider. This can be a limitation even for the few months that cancer patients typically use the service, and could certainly be a problem if the service were expanded to a broader range of illnesses. Similarly, there’s no seamless way to share data with patient communities; it has to be re-entered manually. Enhancing the service to encompass multiple providers would probably require wider adoption of electronic health record standards.

As an example of finding a creative solution to devices that lack interoperability, Mobile Diagnostic Services demonstrated an app that could photograph the display panel of a device, interpret the bars on the display to create digital data, and transmit the values to a health record in the cloud. This is a process well-known to computer programmers from thirty years ago as “screen scraping,” now relevant to the health industry.

One of the strengths of the Connected Health Symposium was the platform it gave to patients and doctors to express their frustrations with the old way of delivering care and the slow pace of change. The testimony could come from entrepreneur Robin Farmanfarmaian, who lost three organs unnecessarily to misdiagnosis, or Sarah Krüg, president of the Society for Participatory Medicine, whose parents died from diseases that might have been caught if the doctors had paid attention to their reported symptoms.

Or the testimony could come from Greg LaGana and Barry Levy, MDs who write and perform in a musical review called Damaged Care that skewers everything about doctors behavior as well as the legal and financial environment in which they have to operate.

Anna MCollister-Slipp, co-founder of Galileo Analytics and a sufferer from type 1 diabetes, regaled us with the dozens of vital sign measurements, treatments, and other details she has to manage on her own manually. She still get lab reports only because her doctor sends them via email (using a private account, so that HIPAA zealots don’t discipline him–the rights and wishes of the patient are supposed to be paramount). Like other conference attendees, though, she reported progress in tools and patient-oriented culture.

Less was heard at the symposium from other sectors of the medical field, but we did hear from Michael of Aetna, Jonathan Bush of athenahealth, and Beverley Bryant of England’s National Health Service. The panel on which Bryant spoke proved to be discouraging. Many of us in the US like to think that other developed nations with their universal health care systems have solved the coordination and interoperability messes that the US is in. But the panelists expressed many familiar frustrations.

I plan to return to the Connected Health Symposium next year, and I’m sure each year will bring a bit of progress toward better communication among staff, better use of patient data, and better integration of tools. The mood at the show was largely positive. But a little probing turned up barriers in the way of the healthcare system we all want.

Which Comes First in Accountable Care: Data or Patients?

Posted on September 30, 2014 I Written By

Andy Oram is an editor at O'Reilly Media, a highly respected book publisher and technology information provider. An employee of the company since 1992, Andy currently specializes in open source, software engineering, and health IT, but his editorial output has ranged from a legal guide covering intellectual property to a graphic novel about teenage hackers. His articles have appeared often on EMR & EHR and other blogs in the health IT space. Andy also writes often for O'Reilly's Radar site (http://radar.oreilly.com/) and other publications on policy issues related to the Internet and on trends affecting technical innovation and its effects on society. Print publications where his work has appeared include The Economist, Communications of the ACM, Copyright World, the Journal of Information Technology & Politics, Vanguardia Dossier, and Internet Law and Business. Conferences where he has presented talks include O'Reilly's Open Source Convention, FISL (Brazil), FOSDEM, and DebConf.

The headlines are stark and accusatory. “ACOs’ health IT capabilities remain rudimentary.” “ACOs held back by poor interoperability.” But a recent 19-page survey released by the eHealth Initiative tells two stories about Accountable Care Organizations–and I find the story about interoperability less compelling than another one that focuses on patient empowerment.
Read more..

What Happens When You Forget Your Laptop?

Posted on September 22, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Many people have long talked about the day when desktops and laptops will no longer exist. When you think about it, there is really nothing that couldn’t be done on your cell phone that can be done on a desktop or laptop.

Sure there are some applications that haven’t yet been made available on a cell phone (I mean natively. Of course a remote desktop environment can run anything) yet. However, every application could be made available on a cell phone if desired. The cell phone is powerful enough. Especially when attached to a powerful server. Yes, I know that many of the mobile apps aren’t as great as their desktop counterparts, but they could and will be.

If we could just use our cell phone for these applications, why don’t we? It admins would happily get rid of desktops and laptops in order to have a much smaller device footprint that they have to manage. It would take some time to make the switch, but it would happen.

The biggest reason I think we have yet to go all in with cell phones as our primary device is the value of peripherals. I think we seriously underestimate the value of a decent keyboard and extra screen real estate.

I’m amazed at how well you can type on a cell phone keyboard, but it still pales in comparison to a quality keyboard. Voice recognition might help in some situations, but it can’t be used everywhere a keyboard can be used. I don’t see us ever beating a physical keyboard at least until it starts typing our thoughts.

Screen real estate is an even bigger issue. As much as you shrink the internals of a cell phone you’re still bound by the size of the screen. Just look at Apple’s choice to release an iPhone with a larger screen. We love as much screen space as we can get. If you’ve never had the delight of using dual monitors on your desktop, you have no idea the efficiencies you’re missing out on. I can do everything on my laptop that I can do on my desktop, but dual monitors makes doing so much more effecient. I even bought a second monitor I could plug into the USB on my laptop. It’s that valuable.

I think the clear solution to this problem is to be able to easily connect your cell phone to external “monitors” and other peripherals like keyboards. Soon these connections will all be available wirelessly. I put “monitors” in quotes since I think we’ll have electronic viewing areas on everything from windows to tables and everything in between. That’s an exciting future to consider (we’ll leave the security issues for another post).

Unfortunately, we’re not there yet, but I think it’s where we’re headed. Eventually we’ll sit down at our desk where our cell phone will wirelessly connect to the monitors and peripherals on your desk. Until then we do this awkward dance between cell phone, laptop and desktop.

In fact, I just boarded a flight with my laptop charging at home instead of being in my laptop bag. Now I get to see first hand the difference between my laptop and cell phone on a work trip. If only the seat back was a monitor and the tray table a keyboard I could connect to my cell phone. Then, I’d been in business and wouldn’t even need my laptop. One day!

Afterthought: This is definitely a first world problems” post. Also, excuse any typoes, because I wrote this post in air on my cell phone keyboard. Certainly the lack of keyboard and monitor didn’t stop me from doing this post, but I could have probably done it twice as fast. Although, it’s a bit ironic that this post wouldn’t exist if the tech was already available. If you’ll be at the Insite Build conference in Fargo, ND, we’ll see you there. Just don’t be surprised if I ask to borrow your laptop.

Apple’s Security Issues and Their Move into Healthcare

Posted on September 3, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’m on the record as being skeptical of Apple’s entrance into healthcare with Apple Health and HealthKit. I just don’t think they’ll dive deep enough into the intricacies of healthcare to really make a difference. They underestimate the complexity.

With that disclosure, I found a number of recent tweets about Apple and healthcare quite interesting. We’ll start first with this tweet that ties the recent nude celebrity photos that were made public after someone hacked the celebrities’ iCloud account together with Apple’s HealthKit release.

For those who don’t follow Apple, they have a big announcement planned for September 9, 2014. Rumors have the new sizes of the iPhone 6 could be announced and the new iWatch (or whatever they finally call it) will be announced alongside the iPhone 6. We’ll see if the announcement also brings more details on Apple Health and HealthKit which has been short on concrete details.

Even if Apple Health and HealthKit aren’t involved in the announcement, every smartwatch I’ve seen has had some health element to it. Plus, we shouldn’t be surprised if the iPhone 6 incorporates health and wellness elements as well. Samsung has already embedded health sensors in the S5. I imagine iPhone will follow suit.

With Apple doing more and more in healthcare, it does bring up some new security and privacy issues for them. In fact, this next tweet highlights one healthcare reaction by Apple that is likely connected with the iCloud security issues mentioned above.

This reminds me of a recent business associate policy I saw from a backup software vendor. They were willing to sign a business associate agreement with a healthcare organization, but only if it was their most expensive product and only if it was used to backup your data to your own cloud or devices. Basically, they just wanted to provide the software and not have to be responsible for the storage and security of the data. Apple is taking a similar approach by not allowing private health data to be stored in iCloud. Makes you wonder if Apple will sign a business associate agreement.

We’ll continue to keep an eye on Apple’s entrance into healthcare. They have a lot to learn about healthcare if they want their work in healthcare to be a success. Security and privacy is just one of those areas.

Fitting the Failure Glorified IT World Into the Failure Free Healthcare World

Posted on September 2, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As most readers know, I’m a tech person by background (and literally @techguy on Twitter). It’s fair to say that I come from a tech perspective when it comes to dealing with most things in life. However, I think I’m a very reasonable tech person that understands the best solution to a problem and applies it appropriately. I’ve always loved people as much as I’ve loved tech.

I feel lucky that I’m usually able to bridge the divide between the two different worlds quite well. In fact, my favorite compliment I get is when people who’ve read my blog forever meet me in person and learn that I’m not a doctor. I’m definitely not a doctor, but I’ve always tried to write from a physician perspective. However, what is very clear to me is that the IT perspective on the world and the Healthcare perspective on the world are very different. In fact, it’s very much a clash of cultures.

The best example I’ve seen of this is in how each of these worlds (IT and Healthcare) approach failure. In the technology world, there is a culture that glorifies failure. The idea that you tried something and failed means that you’re that much closer to a solution. The tech world doesn’t see it as failure at all. The so called “failure” is just a way to rule out one of the available options. This is even true for tech startup companies. Having a failed tech startup company is almost a badge of honor that will help you get more funding for your next company.

On the other side of the world is the healthcare world which has a culture defined by their efforts to make sure that they never fail. While that’s not achievable, that’s their goal in everything they do. Look at the medical device industry regulation as a simple example of this. Look at how doctors take care of patients. As a patient, I want my doctor to try every way possible to make sure they don’t fail. The cost of failure in healthcare can mean someone loses their life. This is not something to take lightly and I’m glad that most in healthcare don’t take it lightly.

Thus we have this amazing clash of cultures. One that glorifies failure as part of the learning process and another that has deeply embedded that failure is unacceptable. You see this in every large healthcare organization. You see it even more when a young tech startup company tries to enter healthcare. It’s why so many of these young startup health companies fail to gain any traction in hospitals and healthcare.

What’s the solution? There is no easy solution. Changing culture is never a simple or quick process. However, both sides can learn from each other. The key is that we need to move away from an all or nothing approach to failure and move to a much more nuanced view of failure. Healthcare leaders need to realize that not all failure is bad, even in healthcare. Yes, there are some times when failure can never, ever be acceptable. However, there are plenty of other times where failure will not only not do any major damage, but will be an important step towards learning and growing. On the other side of the coin, tech people need to realize when something they’re doing in healthcare can not fail and realize there are plenty of situations where this is a requirement in healthcare.

Much like privacy, it’s not that avoiding failure isn’t important in healthcare. It’s extremely important, but we need to have a more nuanced and sophisticated view of when it’s important. This is not an easy balance, but not doing so will cause us to miss out on so many needed opportunities. The good part is that a great leader will have the tech people pulling for more failure and the medical people pulling for more reliability and security. We just need to bring the two together.