Health Systems May Not Be Taking Innovation Seriously Enough

Many years ago, when I first began researching the healthcare industry, I wrote about the Apple Newton. For those that don’t remember the Newton, it was a very early PDA which appeared well before the Blackberry and decades ahead of the smartphone.

After reporting on the pilot test of the Newton by an Army medical division, I asked my healthcare business mentor why civilian healthcare organizations weren’t taking the plunge too. Her response: “In some ways, healthcare is even more conservative than the military.”

Some thirty years later, I continue to wonder at the glacial pace at which healthcare organizations adopt new technology. If a recent survey is any indication, innovation just isn’t a big part of the menu in many cases.

The survey, which was backed by the Center for Connected Medicine and The Health Management Academy, took place in May of last year and includes responses from 63 CIOs, CMIOs and chief nursing informatics officers.

Broadly speaking, the key conclusion the survey drew was that respondents’ top three concerns were cybersecurity, telehealth and interoperability. I don’t know how this looks to you, but I was a bit taken aback.  Admittedly, I get to focus on the latest health IT hotness more than most, but am I the only one surprised to see so little innovation listed?

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m well aware that the three priorities I’ve listed are far from trivial concerns for which they may be less than well-prepared.

For example, only 20% of respondents reported that they were “very confident” in their organization’s ability to recover from cyberattacks. The execs also reported that interoperability problems were holding them back from important initiatives like cost reduction and advanced analytics.

However, I’d like to believe that health systems are exploring new ways to be more competitive with new technologies. It’s clear the idea of winning through innovation is on their minds. In fact, 70% of informatics executives are “somewhat concerned” (and another 10% “very concerned”) about Silicon Valley giants like Apple, Amazon and Google entering the healthcare space.

I’d go so far as to say that the tech giants (Amazon especially) are indeed a potent threat. Of course, much of the healthcare value proposition is local, which makes it harder to capture than the retail businesses targeted by these players, but it won’t hold them back forever.

Given the way these giants stand to shake up the game – not to mention the overall speed at which healthcare continues to change – I’d say that while adequately funding cybersecurity, fostering interoperability and adopting telehealth should happen, innovation should also be a top-level priority. Otherwise, execs will keep banging away at the same old problems the same way, and get no further than they did before.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.