We Don’t Use the Context We Have in Healthcare

I was recently looking at all the ways consumer technology has been using the context of our lives to make things better. Some obvious examples are things like Netflix which knows what shows we watch and recommends other shows that we might enjoy. Amazon knows what we’ve bought before and what we’re searching for and can use those contexts to recommend other things that we might want to consider. I know I’ve used that feature a lot to evaluate which item was the best for me to purchase on Amazon.

Everywhere we turn in our consumer lives, our context is being used to provide a better experience. Sometimes this shows up in creepy ways like the time a certain cleaning product was mentioned in my kitchen and then I saw an ad for it on a website I was visiting. Was it just coincidence or did Alexa hear me talking about it and then make the recommendation to buy based on that data? Yes, some of this stuff can bit a little creepy and even concerning. However, I personally love the era of personalization which generally makes our lives better.

While this is happening everywhere in our personal lives, healthcare has been slow to adopt similar technologies. Far too often we’re treated in healthcare without taking into account the context of our needs. Sometimes this is as simple as a healthcare provider not taking time to look at the chart. Other times we deny patients request that we add their medical record to our own record or we store it in a place where no one will ever actually access it.

Those are just the basic ways we don’t use context to help us better serve patients. More advanced ways are when we deny patients the opportunity to share their patient generated health data or we don’t use the health data they’re providing. Many people are working on pushing out social data which can provide a lot of context into why a patient is experience health issues or how we could better treat them. This is only going to grow larger, but we’re doing a poor job finding ways to seamlessly incorporate this data into the care that’s being provided.

One of the big challenges of AI is that it has a hard time understanding context. However, humans have a unique ability to include context in the decisions they make. Our interfaces should take this into account so that humans have the information they need to be able to make the proper contextual decisions. At least until the robots get smart enough to do it themselves.

Have you seen other places where healthcare didn’t use the context of the situation and should have used it? How about examples where we use context very effectively?

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, 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, EXPO.health, 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.

1 Comment

  • Context works for Amazon and Netflix because there is a FREE MARKET for their products. Their customers make buying decisions directly — they don’t have to get permission from a third party.

    American health care hasn’t been a truly free market since 1943, before which one dealt directly with one’s doctor or hospital, and costs were quite reasonable. With today’s top-down command-and-control health care delivery, the incentive for taking advantage of context simply isn’t there.

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