Complementary flexible software is coming necessity for enterprise healthcare IT

If only we had software to __________________, we could __________________.

I’m often surprised when we talk to healthcare organizations how easily some of their operational issues could be fixed if only they had the right software, even more so now that I have departed day-to-day healthcare operations. While healthcare has historically been slow on the uptake of technology, there are now systems and solutions at every turn. Software to improve provider communication. Software to host an online patient visit. Software to manage the credentialing process. There are startups literally everywhere creating new software products daily to improve healthcare delivery.

None of this is surprising — “software is eating the world,” as Marc Andreessen declared in 2011. The inventions of the computer, the microprocessor, and the internet are allowing entire businesses to be built or rebuilt on software with services being delivered online. IBM is in the midst of another transformation, this time into a software company, Amazon has been more of a software company than a retailer since its inception, and even Domino’s Pizza, where 50 percent of sales come from online sources, can now be labeled a software company.

Software allows unprecedented automation, efficiency, and the delivery of creativity.

Healthcare has never demanded new ideas to create value like it is now. Value for providers, for partners, and for patients.

Software is creating opportunities for individuals throughout healthcare delivery organizations — most importantly, those individuals on the front lines of delivery transformation — to create value in an unprecedented fashion. It’s never been cheaper, easier, nor faster to build quality software to support emerging ideas.

Software helps make ideas possible. While technology is often not the entire solution to a problem — it is usually part of the solution. Software can bring ideas to life. It can be the difference between paper and pencil, it can be the difference between having reliable and useless data, it can be the difference in creating a prototype that scales or a pilot project that languishes.

For instance, these are not difficult problems to solve:

  • Timely and accurate discharge information for patients leaving the hospital and being admitted to a long-term care facility (potentially preventing an unnecessary less-than-24-hour return trip to the hospital) should be the standard; instead it’s the exception.
  • Why can’t uninsured patients be easily targeted for a marketing campaign to become insured — good for the both the individual and the organization — based upon basic demographics and data sources readily available in other industries?
  • The standardized operating “rules,” “guidelines,” “resources,” and “protocols” stored in human memory, Word documents, and Excel files, should be readily available to all and logic-based for improved decision support.

Yet these problems exist in organizations around the country. My exploratory conversations with healthcare providers can be boiled down to a fill-in-the-blanks exercise:

If only we had software to __________________, we could __________________.

What a powerful notion. A notion that, until now, would have required great expense, great effort, and bountiful resources. The proliferation of software — and more importantly, the ease of which quality and inexpensive software can be developed efficiently — is changing that. The cataclysm of a world converting to software and a transforming delivery environment holds the potential to improve healthcare delivery for all participants.

That is why today’s healthcare operating environment requires a tandem approach to software: core systems and the flexible solution.

Core systems are traditional clinical software technologies like the electronic medical record, the practice management system, the PACS system, provider order entry, pharmacy information system, the lab information system, etc., etc., etc. They are in a fixed state and customization occurs at implementation. These rigid enterprise systems were built for a fee-for-service environment.

But the rigidity has created a technology gap that manifests as a barrier. By definition, the rigidity creates inflexibility.

To undertake new strategic opportunities brought about by system transformation, core systems require complementary flexible solutions.
Flexible solutions are in a dynamic state and mandatory in a fee-for-value environment.

A flexible solution is a software platform that that can be implemented anywhere, connect with anything, and perpetually customizable. It is not limited to a particular function, not speciality specific, nor does it have to be expensive. It is quick to implement and easy to scale. It does not dictate workflow, it supports the best workflow.

Every enterprise requires both core systems and complementary flexible solutions. Both are necessary throughout the enterprise. Both are required to provide care across the continuum.

Crossposted over here.