Are Pilot Implementations the New “Evidence”?

Posted on March 13, 2015 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’ve talked with hundreds of healthcare IT companies. Many of them are new healthcare IT startup companies. It’s a feature of being a blogger and also of me organizing the Healthcare IT Marketing and PR conference. One challenge that every healthcare IT startup company faces is proving that whatever they’ve built will actually achieve the results they describe.

In many ways, this is a chicken and an egg problem. You need some customers that are using the product and show that it works before you can get people to use your software. However, no one wants to be the first one to try the software. They’re all sitting on the fence waiting for someone else to try it out.

In the IT world, some example pilot studies are the “evidence” a healthcare IT company needs to prove their solution works. Theories don’t work. They can send it off to a lab that tests it and certifies that it works (although, that’s kind of what EHR certification did and we know how that turned out). The only effective way I’ve seen a company prove that their product will work is to have some customers that are using the product.

Although, one user using it is not enough. If you’re in the hospital world you need a trifecta of users: large medical system (often academic), medium medical system, and small medical system (usually rural or community). In the ambulatory world you usually need a user from each specialty. While we’d love to think that what works for one specialty will work just as well for another one (and sometimes it does), it’s really hard to get someone to buy something when someone else in their category isn’t using it.

The best way I’ve seen to solve this problem is to beg, borrow, and steal your way to an effective group of pilot users. I’m not sure this is such a bad thing. We all know that a product being used is very different from a product that’s only been developed. However, we need more leaders that are willing to be the pilot implementations.

I think many organizations would want to do this, but they’re just so overwhelmed by meaningful use and other regulations that they haven’t had the time. Hopefully now that MU is more mature, they’ll make the time. It turns out that there are some real advantages to being the first. It’s like having your own development team at your fingertips. We need more of this engagement in healthcare.