By Brian Carter, SVP, Product, Validic™
Whether we’re talking about complex diagnoses and treatment plans or wellness objectives, or anything in between, we tend to see the same pattern emerge in a person’s journey to achieve a given health goal. Most success stories like this consist of the following:
- recognition that something needs to change
- development of a plan
- tracking of the adherence and results of that plan
- attainment of the goal
So, it seems simple, right? My story sounded easy, but it wasn’t. There were times when I hit plateaus losing weight where I almost gave up. Quitting smoking, well, that was a several-year parade of repeated, discouraging failures before I found lasting success. The real progression is less linear, and usually more like 1-2, 1-2-3, 1, 1, 1-2-3-4. What could technology do to help people go straight through the steps, connecting them with the information, knowledge, and people best-suited to meet their needs in real time?
One of my managers years ago was also a colonel in the Air Force Reserves, because being a full-time HIT executive wasn’t challenging enough, I guess. She would often use the phrase “force multiplier.” A force multiplier is something that makes every person on the field X times more effective as the other side; “one of my medics is worth five of theirs” with better training, better intelligence, and better equipment as their force multipliers.
So, “why” do I do what I do as a technologist in healthcare? I want to arm everyone with their own health force multiplier – so they have every advantage they can to attain the goals of their plan. Whether it’s the person trying to get healthy, a nurse care manager trying to help address the needs of a growing population, or the physician with more patients than time, technology can take some of the load completely, and simplify other tasks substantially.
How do we stay focused on the “why?”
How do we stay focused on our “why” when the support tickets are piling up, the project plan is behind schedule, and ten stakeholders want ten different things? For me, it’s critical to get on the field. You can’t multiply a force if you don’t understand what they do. Walk the halls with a nurse. Stay at the office until long after dinner time with a physician who’s trying to get all their computerized documentation from the day done. Hang out with a patient who’s using six different tools to track all the data around their diabetes condition. The important thing is to get an understanding of what their goals are, and what’s standing in the way of achieving them. For example, if you spent a couple hours with a diabetes patient, you’ll likely walk away with a couple key observations: a) they don’t think of themselves as a “patient” and b) they’re not going to get super excited about new apps and gadgets the way people in the HIT world do.
Our industry talks a lot about “patient engagement” and wanting to “better-engage patients.” In reality, virtually no one wants to be a patient. Spending more time with patients would reveal that our real job is to spend less time with them, and that the time we spend with them should be higher value than gathering information, typing it into computers, and coordinating next steps. As technologists, what can we do to help that happen?
The next time you get in an argument about whether it’s worth the extra engineering hours to pull those demographic data points over from another part of the application rather than making the user key them in again, the answer is yes. If automated data gathering can be done instead of having to call someone on the phone, and that task is done hundreds of times a week, automating it won’t just make someone’s life easier, it’ll substantially multiply the odds of it happening at all.
The ultimate goal is to make supportive technology invisible in daily life. I was recently watching an episode of Shark Tank and the founder of Ring Security, Jamie Siminoff, said something that stuck with me. A product was being pitched that I thought was pretty cool, but he didn’t share my opinion. He said that the reason the Ring doorbell works is because a visitor to your house does the same thing they’ve always done: push the doorbell button. The product being pitched would require everyone interacting with it to learn a new behavior and do something they didn’t have to do before (an extra effort) without getting any value themselves for doing it. Because the technology wasn’t invisible and intruded on everyone that interacted with it, Siminoff just didn’t think it would take off.
This industry has seen many people and companies with the best of intentions create technology that’s really cool, but doesn’t solve a problem without creating a new burden somewhere else in the value chain. Staying focused on the why, understanding the whole picture of how people will use your technology, and diligently refining the solution with real-world feedback might sound like Product Management 101.
Yet, remaining focused on these ideas is critical – and when you’re thinking about the minute details of product engineering, stakeholder demands, and project plans, it can fall to the wayside. More and more people are developing chronic conditions that require them to spend more time in the doctor’s office, more time worrying about their health, and more time working to change their behavior. My why is to make this even just a little simpler. What’s your why? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The statements and opinions held in this piece belong to the individual contributor alone and do not represent the corporate views or beliefs of the company.