Is Healthcare Missing Out on 21st Century Technology?

This tweet struck me as I consider some of the technologies at the core of healthcare. As a patient, many of the healthcare technologies in use are extremely disappointing. As an entrepreneur I’m excited by the possibilities that newer technologies can and will provide healthcare.

I understand the history of healthcare technology and so I understand much of why healthcare organizations are using some of the technologies they do. In many cases, there’s just too much embedded knowledge in the older technology. In other cases, many believe that the older technologies are “more reliable” and trusted than newer technologies. They argue that healthcare needs to have extremely reliable technologies. The reality of many of these old technologies is that they don’t stop someone from purchasing the software (yet?). So, why should these organizations change?

I’m excited to see how the next 5-10 years play out. I see an opportunity for a company to leverage newer technologies to disrupt some of the dominant companies we see today. I reminded of this post on my favorite VC blog. The reality is that software is a commodity and so it can be replaced by newer and better technology and displace the incumbent software.

I think we’ve seen this already. Think about MEDITECH’s dominance and how Epic is having its hey day now. It does feel like software displacement in healthcare is a little slower than other industries, but it still happens. I’m interested to see who replaces Epic on the top of the heap.

I do offer one word of caution. As Fred says in the blog post above, one way to create software lock in is to create a network of users that’s hard to replicate. Although, he also suggested that data could be another way to make your software defensible. I’d describe it as data lock-in and not just data. We see this happening all over the EHR industry. Many EHR vendors absolutely lock in the EHR data in a way that makes it really challenging to switch EHR software. If exchange of EHR data becomes wide spread, that’s a real business risk to these EHR software companies.

While it’s sometimes disappointing to look at the old technology that powers healthcare, it also presents a fantastic opportunity to improve our system. It is certainly not easy to sell a new piece of software to healthcare. In fact, you’ll likely see the next disruptive software come from someone with deep connections inside healthcare partnered with a progressive IT expert.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • In today’s WSJ there is an editorial discussing how the FDA has not approved a new sunscreen formulation since the early 1970’s.

    My point is, where oh where shall we begin to move medicine forward??

    Quite frankly there is a ton of technology in the EHR world, it just is not necessarily applied well.

  • Your statement, “While it’s sometimes disappointing to look at the old technology that powers healthcare,” must refer to an ambulatory vendor I am aware of, which installed its software onto a Windows Server 2003 just 3 years ago, and is now demanding the provider upgrade to Windows Server 2008. The provider wants to upgrade to Windows Server 2012, but the software company’s software won’t reliably work (yet) on that version. What is a poor country doctor to do?
    He will be dumping his current vendor and finding a software company which uses the cloud instead of servers in his office.
    Companies which continue to not keep up, will be left with few customers.

  • @Suzanne
    What you stated is classic.

    I’ve seen this a number of times.

    Not only with servers but with desktops.

    This stuff really isn’t that difficult…but they make it that way.

    On the one hand I call it bafoonery, on the other I call it a plan to push users to the cloud.

    We all know an EHR vendor makes more when the users are on their cloud system vs. in house server.

  • John,
    Long term they can make more, but the real key is the ongoing revenue of the cloud vs the one time up front payment. The economics of each are very different and the in house server requires you to resell the person every time there’s an upgrade.

  • Dr. Shrestha,

    I appreciate your posting as it is in direct alignment with what we are experiencing currently in the Radiology market. There was a slow initial adoption rate, then facilities hung on to older technologies too long. I suspect primarily from a fear of changing, but also because of the reimbursement reductions. However, finally the Radiology market is seeing a surge in replacement opportunities. Medical facilities are wanting and needing to adopt better solutions which help communicate data to more individuals and IT systems. Radiology professionals are also noting that better software solutions will allow profitability increases, and cost reductions.

    I believe the same thing will happen in the next few years with EHR. For the exact reasons you mentioned, EHR companies have clients data locked and also afraid of going through another implementation cycle. As technology is adopted, and more vendors move to a cloud-based solution, we expect a replacement EHR market to arise in 2 to 4 years.

    I don’t think cloud is specifically a more profitable solution, but it usually dictates a web-based interface. Since the rest of the technology world has moved or is moving to web-based interfaces, users will collectively become more comfortable using web browsers for every interaction they need. Cloud is driving software to become more intuitive, which results in higher adoption. Higher adoption will ultimately make users more demanding of software, and that’s when real innovation will occur. Like your post said… “I’m excited to see how the next 5-10 years play out.”

  • John,

    My mistake on addressing my comments to Dr. Shrestha. I thought this was written by Dr. Shrestha. My apologies, but a great article none the less!


  • In this article about Operating Room Safety (, I referenced a 1999 report saying as many as 98,000 patients die each year in hospitals from preventable medical errors. That’s the equivalent of two wide-bodied jets crashing every day, but the real comparison should be with the computer industry and Moore’s Law.

    The article then compares the airline industry, which has a much better safety record than hospitals, to the computer industry. If air travel had had advanced at the same pace over the last 30 years, you could fly from New York to London in one second at a cost of one cent. And once at your destination, it would be cheaper to throw the 2-inch long airplane away than to have it serviced and parked overnight. Imagine if medicine had improved at the rate of Moore’s Law and profited from health & wellness instead of disease.

Click here to post a comment