Welcome, 800 Pound Gorillas
To date, health IT largely has been the domain of specialized vendors whose names are familiar primarily to providers and others in the healthcare industry. But in 2017, global technology giants such as Google, Apple and Amazon announced, or at least hinted at, plans to enter the healthcare market.
So will these tech giants, with all their financial and technical resources, make 2018 a year of dramatic health IT advancements? Only time will tell. While these tech giants are incredibly innovative, success in health IT is not a guarantee. Caution is advisable for three reasons:
- Complexity of the hospital environment – U.S. hospitals have multiple IT systems in addition to the EHR that house critical pieces of health information. Because data is coming from all over, combining and presenting it meaningfully so it is actionable for clinicians is a huge challenge. Meanwhile, users have varying levels of access to these systems. All of which means the environment in which health IT vendors play is exceedingly complicated.
- Long adoption and implementation cycles – Large hospitals and health systems often take years to analyze their options before making an enterprise IT purchase, and even smaller facilities can take six to 12 months, because the stakes are so high in healthcare IT. Patients’ lives are on the line, so prudence and patience are mandatory for buyers. Therefore, no vendor entering the healthcare IT market should expect quick returns.
- Individualized needs of providers – Physicians want software that gives them the specific information they need, exactly where and when they want it. This typically varies by the provider’s specialty, and the patient’s current situation. How do you take the geometrically increasing store of healthcare data, curate it for each doctor, present it clearly, and make it easy for them to take action on?
Tech giants may indeed solve some of the challenges that have plagued healthcare IT for decades. Still, those of us who have been at this for a long time have learned a thing or two along the way, and we certainly know enough not to undersell the magnitude of the challenges. So here’s to the IT powerhouses of the world bringing new energy, ideas and resources to healthcare IT: Caveat venditor.
[For more of my take on what these tech giants need to know before diving into the healthcare IT market, read my recent HIT Think commentary in Health Data Management.]