Lack of “innovation” as vendors focus on meaningful use?

EMR and HIPAA is a great blog about health IT technology – well written, thoughtful, with personality. But I disagreed today with a post about the huge HIMSS conference (Health Information Management Systems Society) that ends today in Orlando.

John wrote that with all the focus on meaningful use, EHR Innovations Have Gone Missing at HIMSS11. I understand this view – I’ve been a vendor at many trade shows myself (in graphic arts). But that’s also why I see this as a good thing for the ultimate stakeholder – the patient – who has always been utterly disenfranchised. I commented:

I spent most of my life being in various kinds of tech innovation, so I know what you mean. Having said that, I humbly submit that the innovation you seek was innovation that year after year failed to serve consumers (patients), as vendors (remember I was one) sought to entice their paying customers (the people who bought systems). I completely understand this, but the end result was that we consumers have been left out in the cold.

We also have volumes of complaints from system users (hospital workers) about the systems too often being hard to use, getting in the way of their work, etc. I’ve never used one but I’ve talked personally with many doctors about this.

If I understand correctly, what’s happening now is that the regulators have stepped in and said “Dude, you gotta serve the consumer.” I’m no fan of solving things by unnecessary regulation, but in matters like lead paint and toxic food, regulation turned out to be necessary. This situation is different, but it does appear that the sudden halt in other innovation indicates that the meaningful use rules are succeeding in shifting vendors’ focus.

I look forward to when hospitals HAVE to compete for patient business by having features patients like, so they in turn ask for those features from system vendors. The ecosystem will then function on its own again – with the vital difference that for the first time, it will include the people who live or die based on how well the products serve them. Imagine! :-)

If I’ve overlooked something I’m all ears…thoughts?

This brought me back to these slides, extracted from a talk I gave last June, when there was argument (during the definition of the meaningful use rules) about whether vendors should have to make their systems more usable – and the exciting new announcement that HHS was opening its vast databases for any innovator to use as “fuel”:

AHRQ 2010 subset on innovation and safety, Feb 2011

HHS has since opened a lot more data, and developer contests have already been happening. So I was pleased during HIMSS to also see a tweet citing an HHS official saying that all this data amounts to “rocket fuel” for innovators!

I hope the consumer-oriented regulations are indeed leading vendors to step back from “shiny new objects” and innovate in ways that will help the ultimate stakeholder, who until now has been nothing more than an afterthought.

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6 Responses to “Lack of “innovation” as vendors focus on meaningful use?”

  1. Interesting post and thanks for your kind words about EMR and HIPAA. I’m not sure we disagree all that much.

    I can agree that opening up the data in these EMR and other healthcare IT systems is powerful and will make possibly many of the future innovations that will shape healthcare. However, I’m just wishing that we would have seen some of those innovations on display at HIMSS.

    Certainly you could argue that we’re seeing the baby steps which form the foundation upon which the future EMR innovations will occur. I could agree with this idea. I’m just impatiently waiting for those innovations to start happening and to happen in such a compelling way that when we see it we can say, That’s transformative…followed by…why didn’t I think of that?

    As a funny coincidence, I think I was the one that posted the tweet you mention: http://twitter.com/#!/techguy/status/39398019925286912 Although, I can’t really take credit. I was just tweeting what Aneesh Chopra provided as his message at the HIT Venture Forum.

    I’m just ready for the rocket fuel to be put to work. I’m tired of it starting to rust in the canisters.

    • Awesome to know you’re @techguy! Thanks for resurrecting that tweet… now that you mention it I recall that it was live tweeting of Aneesh’s talk.

      Great to meet you – thanks for coming by.

    • Nice timing: Chilmark Research just posted another “where’s the innovation?” item; my comment’s awaiting moderation – it points to the newly released (today) video results from the Health 2.0 Developer Challenges, which were all about mashups – the kind of thing I’m hungry for.

      • Yes, I am @techguy and @ehrandhit actually.

        I think we need more hacking in healthcare. Not the hacking that scares every CIO in healthcare. I’m talking about what nerds and geeks across the country consider hacking. Basically, hacking together elegant solutions quickly that do a lot with little.

        It’s an interesting idea actually. How cool would it be to hold something like that just before HIMSS? I might have to put that together.

        • You’re singin’ my song… are you familiar with the “Health 2.0 Developer Challenges” and the HHS-initiated innovator challenges? I can’t readily dig out the references (about to board a plane) but I’m sure Google will help.

          They tend not to be oriented around big-iron systems, but that’s entirely due to the lack of APIs to present all that flirty data to (our kind of) hackers.

          The most recent was last month in Boston and included *physically* hacking a Kinect, from what I hear. Haven’t seen the post-event vids but I think they’ve been posted.

          We can definitely hook you up. Wouldn’t I love that – unleash all the powers of EMR whizzes, in a playground with far fewer restraints! Power to the geekle!

        • Yes, I have heard of a number of those challenges. I like their approach, but I’d like to see them take off bite size chunks. Kind of like Startup Weekend if you’ve ever heard of it. Basically a group of people get together on a weekend and build something really cool together. Kind of the power of crowds with great tools.

          We’ll have to see if we can do this. It’s nice that HIMSS is in Las Vegas (where I live), so maybe we can actually coordinate it to make it happen. My only fear is that it might be too much to do with HIMSS.

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