Health IT: Starting With a Problem, Not a Solution

When we think about our most utilized pieces of technology, whether it is a word processor or a claims submittal website, do we find its usefulness in the core technology that makes it work, or in the ease and resources it provides for us? For all of us, we are looking to simplify a task, from taking faster and cleaner notes, to faster claim submittals and reimbursements, to finding just the right drug without need of trial and error.

Unless you are a technophile, you probably have little understanding of how the technology works, but can nonetheless appreciate the features and benefits of a tool that makes a task easier. Many health IT (HIT) systems start as a technology that can be applied to a health issue. This way of thinking is deeply flawed. Providers and support users need to understand what they are looking to accomplish in a technology solution first and foremost before they can appreciate the technology and architecture behind the system. As a collective population we think with our heart first, making decisions based on our internalized, perceived wants and needs.

One Size Does Not Fit Most

When choosing an HIT solution, organizations should look at what they want to accomplish: optimizing hospital bed usage, reducing readmission rates, or increasing use of wellness programs. Then they can search for a solution based on the shared goals. The shiniest option may not always be the best-fit, and the easiest to implement technology may not be the best in the long run. HIT solutions are not a one-size-fits-most model.

According to a systemic review by Greenhalgh, et al.1 technologies are more readily adopted when they:

  • Have a clear, unambiguous advantage in either effectiveness or cost-effectiveness
  • Are compatible with the adopter’s values, norms, and perceived needs
  • Are perceived as simple to use
  • Offer trialability, i.e. users can experiment on a limited basis
  • Observable benefits
  • When the technology can be refined and modified by the adopter to meet their specific needs
  • It is relevant to the user’s work and improves task performance
  • Knowledge to use the innovation can be codified and transferred easily
  • Carries a low degree of uncertainty, i.e. they are perceived as having little risk
  • The technology is offered as an “augmented product” (e.g. with customization, training, and a help desk)

How do I know I have the right HIT Solution?

For providers and pharmacists, many are seeking efficient ways to prescribe a medication accurately, safely, and effectively. There are many solutions available, but when looking for the right option, you need to ask these questions:

  1. How does this solution make my life easier?
  2. Why did you create this solution? What problem is it solving?
  3. Where do you see this solution evolving in the future?

The answers should match up to your own expectations, and if the HIT company cannot answer the questions succinctly, accurately, and confidently, then you may want to re-think choosing that option. You should also be aware of a company that uses a tool to address too many goals without deep specificity. A solution that is “capable of many, but skilled at none” is a dangerous proposition and one that almost assuredly won’t meet your needs.

Implementation of new technology, especially in the health arena is many times a lengthy and time-consuming process. With the right company, they will do all they can to minimize the stress of implementation and provide all the support you need from training to live help.

When it comes to making critical decisions for patients, reducing the time it takes to complete certain tasks, or finding opportunities/inefficiencies, a strong HIT solution aligned with your organizations goals and targeted to your exact needs will be worth all the time and effort put into making the decision.

1. Diffusion of Innovations in Service Organizations: Systematic Review and Recommendations