Don’t be a Luddite; be a skeptic. Any technology should be rigorously evaluated before it enters your organization’s walls. At a minimum, we see three tests that any technology should pass before consideration.
One: It Must Improve Continuity of Care
In general, we want our patient contacts to be made up of fewer “transactions” and richer, more meaningful touch points. This isn’t just a romantic notion. As we see a general trend towards primary care, value based contracts, documentation of family history and other non-clinical factors that contribute to health status, clinicians will need to be better diagnosticians and “detectives.” Technology will need to enable these efforts to create an overall picture of health.
Consider how data from an application will be stored for later review. Will it integrate appropriately into an EMR? If another clinician looks at the information, will it be considered trustworthy? Once in the record, how is it helpful to the patient experience? Does it increase engagement or adherence?
Two: It Must Improve Clinician Efficiency
Any new technology has to be accommodated in the day to day operations in order to be successful. This takes a tremendous amount of resources, so make sure it’s worth it. First off, think through its impact at the point of care. In general, clinicians want more time: time to review patient records, time to consult with other members of the team and time for richer patient conversations and follow up. How can this product give them more time to do the high quality work and do less paperwork?
The strategic and financial impacts of high quality work should be considered over longer time horizons (improved outcomes, patient and provider satisfaction, market share, etc.) but also look at how improved efficiencies can impact the “here and now.” Can you quantify a financial impact in the near term that will allow you to justify a new budget item?
Three: It Must Help You Communicate to Stakeholders
Every organization of relative size and complexity needs to know how it is performing from day to day to year to year. We believe that dashboards are not just a buzzword; having measurable assessment of your progress is the key to improving performance. A recent blog post discussing how improved communication technologies add transparency and reduce unnecessary bureaucracy in corporate workplaces asked the question “Would it be helpful to arrive at work and find an 11×17 sheet of paper across your keyboard with perhaps 150 metrics of the company’s performance?” Maybe it doesn’t need to be paper (!) but imagine that your organization has identified 3-5 key metrics to work on and provided all team members an appropriately timed (daily/weekly/quarterly) update on that progress?
Not only does this help improve performance, it also improves collaboration between administrators and clinicians, helping create a dialogue about what it takes to truly impact performance and quality. Or between funders and researchers, to demonstrate effectiveness and propagate best practices.
We believe that a human, well augmented by technology, will deliver superior patient care. At the same time, technology is responsible for much of the cost growth in healthcare nationally. Be certain that every new technology moves your organization’s mission forward.