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IT Challenges in Meeting the Prescribed Treatment for what Ails Healthcare

Ever wonder why hasn’t IT revolutionized healthcare as it has most every industry in the world? I do – its one of the reasons I’ve made a career transition from IT into healthcare. That, and trying to see if I can help find how IT still can improve healthcare.

Information Technology, and advances in technology in general, have brought a revolutionary impact on almost all industries on the planet, specifically in decreasing costs throughout the value chain from supplier through consumer, streamlining communications, and in empowering consumers by giving them greater access to information and therefore greater say in what and how products and services are provided to them.

Even the theatre industry has benefited from IT.

Managing the sound and lighting effects in theatre productions is much less expensive and more user-friendly now then say 30 years ago, allowing theatre companies to lower the costs for stage productions and making culture more available to the masses.

Similar cost reductions and operational efficiencies are being witnessed globally. Currently, Uber and AirBnB are causing major disruptions by bringing a new, tech-based model to transportation and the hotel industry. (And in the process, creating an entirely new economy.)

But this hasn’t happened in healthcare.

Healthcare still has not fully adopted IT and much of it operates as it did in the 1950s. (Look, for instance at similarities between the hospital patient room from the 1950s and today.)

And, the underlying cost structure hasn’t changed – or reduced – as other industries have. In fact, healthcare costs continue to rise year over year at a rate faster than inflation.

This isn’t entirely for lack of trying – either on the part of IT firms or the medical community.

The question is Why?

Why has IT been unable to penetrate healthcare to effect cost reductions when it has a well established track records for doing so in other industries? And its close corollary – What can we do about it?

To understand the situation well enough to answer the question, we have to realize that the IT and healthcare industries differ in one important way.

The information technology field follows the “If you build it, they will come” mantra made famous by the Kevin Costner film, “Field of Dreams”. (As we’ll see, this approach would be a nightmare in healthcare.)

And, more recently, Steve Jobs was famous for not listening to the consumer – because the consumer doesn’t know what they want until he puts it in front of them. [Interesting analysis of Jobs’ quote on this subject on the HelpScout blog.] And really, most customers, the public in general, doesn’t know what they want from IT or what kinds of things IT can accomplish in the first place. So anticipating – or creating – customer needs is a viable approach – one Apple did and continues to do exceptionally well.

But, this doesn’t work in healthcare where the medical community is dealing with human life. Doctors can only use drugs, medical devices, and treatments that have been widely tested in controlled settings, proven to be effective, and with side effects that are well known and documented.

This requirement for testing is foreign to the IT industry. In IT, it is not uncommon to release products with known bugs and allow consumers to identify the problems and deficiencies with the software or solution. Microsoft was famous for taking this approach and Google has taken the practice one step further by releasing beta software for public use. [Disclosure: I love Google and Microsoft – research for this and all blogs starts at Google, and are drafted in Word.]

Beta refers to software that, while functional, is not fully ready for commercial use.

Yes, there are sound business reasons for the practice or releasing software that may not be fully ready for commercial use – especially in Google’s case as their products are released for free – as flaws in software products can be hard to find or are manifest only under certain conditions. Relying on customer reports is often the most efficient way to identify flaws.

But in healthcare, this doesn’t work. Anything intended for use with real patients must be thoroughly tested on patients and in controlled and monitored settings. We don’t want to wait for people to die to realize a drug or other treatment may have serious side effects.

So even if you put an IT solution in front of doctors and other providers that may potentially increase the quality of care, they won’t use it unless you can also point to documented evidence of its efficacy. The uptake, or adoption, of new drugs and technological approaches requires a greater level of evidence than the IT industry may be used to providing.

What’s required is a merging of the medical industry’s approach to clinical trials (e.g., testing with all results documented) with the iterative, Agile development process from the technology industry.

Agile development is a process for developing a software or technical solution that breaks the overall effort into multiple stages, called sprints. The end of each stage allows for an opportunity to test (e.g., run a small clinical trial).

Doing so may (but may not) increase the timeline and cost of the development of a health IT solution – but will more than make up for it in the increased quality and long-term uptake of the solution by the medical industry.

Performing clinical trials earlier in the development of health IT solutions allows the medical community to contribute early on by helping adapt the technology to the specific needs of their patients and potentially making providers more amenable to incorporating the solution into their practice of medicine going forward. At the least, being involved earlier in the development process will train providers in the use of the technology – especially important for situations when the new technology will change the workflows associated with patient care.

In essence, IT can still be the remedy for what ails the US healthcare system and incorporating a clinical trial approach to the Agile development process may be just what the doctor ordered.

August 7, 2015 Posted by | Audience Communication | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yelp for your Doctor?

Online review sites are coming into Medicine, and why not? there are online reviews for most everything else. But, will online reviews impact your selection of a Doctor? Is the anonymous nature of the Internet helpful or hurtful in selecting a physician you will trust with your and your family’s health? And perhaps more importantly, will negative review of your doctor posted online change your views of your current doctor?

A recent article on the Wall Street Journal asks this question as well.

May 20, 2014 Posted by | Audience Communication | Leave a comment

Guest Post: The Steam Ecosystem Vying for Gaming Dominance?

With the announcement by Valve, that a Steam ecosystem will be available on a Steam Box that will play not only your preexisting Windows and Mac games but the full Library of games available on Steam as well, Valve has revealed SteamOS, its own operating system based on Linux, designed for living room gaming PCs and the living is the battle ground for your entertainment space that the XBOX ONE and PS4 are also fighting for this season.

2014 marks the first steps toward what ecosystem will dominate that coveted space in front of your flat screen. Valve’s Steam Box, its vision for an open video game console. It combines Steam’s preeminent video game digital distribution platform with a user interface designed for TVs, the BIG PICTURE all on top of the Linux platform. It will also be free which I think is it’s biggest selling point for gamers that have had enough of Microsoft’s Windows OS 8 problems and the limited catalog of games available for the Mac. “It will be available soon as a free stand-alone operating system for living room machines,” according to the company. Valve has already announced that major game developers are already on board with Linux, and will be building triple-A game titles that will run natively on SteamOS in 2014 that puts them squarely in competition with XBOX ONE and PS4 with none of the backwards compatibility issues that you have with every next generation console. SteamOS boxes will also have a workaround for the huge existing library of Windows games: in-home streaming.

Not unlike the Nvidia Shield, it will include a method for wirelessly streaming games from your existing gaming computer that you already have STEAM on to your TV, which Valve says will also come to the regular Steam client at some point in the near future. Also like the XBOX ONE and the PS4 coming to both Steam and SteamOS: streaming video and music services. “We’re working with many of the media services you know and love,” Valve writes. That means never having to leave the Steam ecosystem to watch YouTube or do your social networking and you can play the background music of your choice while playing your favorite games.

Lee

So why would Valve create a brand new operating system for gaming? “As we’ve been working on bringing Steam to the living room, we’ve come to the conclusion that the environment best suited to delivering value to customers is an operating system built around Steam itself,” the company’s announcement reads. Valve says that by working at the operating system level, they’ve managed to improve graphics performance, and can also improve audio and reduce controller latency. Valve co-founder Gabe Newell famously called Windows 8 a “catastrophe” and has publicly blamed Microsoft’s operating system for tanking PC sales. Also with Windows 8 app store it puts them direct competition for Steam’s video game revenue model, and lets Microsoft own the shopping experience. Newell said that Valve was planning to create three tiers of the Steam Box, “good,” “better,” and “best,” with “good” likely a $99 box that would stream games from other more powerful computers that most gamers already have so a $99 Steam box is still cheaper then the next Windows OS or a upgrade to Windows 8 for a PC gamer or even the Mac OS, and “better” being a $300 box that Valve would both build itself and allow partners to build so long as they adhered to a certain hardware spec. Valve has all the ready-made hardware you can buy to get started with SteamOS. At CES, the company said it already had 15-20 hardware partners lined up.

Some of the most exciting things the Steam OS coming out at this time is a apple to apples comparison to the new console gaming systems and the way it will reinvent the way we look at and talk about gaming as we know it today.

By Lee Gaddies
Guest, Technology Today 12/3/13

November 25, 2013 Posted by | Audience Communication | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Video Games a Driver of New Tech

Many believe that video games are the bane of the modern day existence. That they are nothing more than a means to dull the brain with no productive outcome.

Well, those who hold this opinion may be surprised to know that video games and gaming in general are drivers of great technological advancement in a variety of fields – from the computer graphics that display the games, to artificial intelligence that run the games & play as the “computer”, to personal computing computational power that handle the advanced graphics and AI on ever smaller form factors from desktops to laptops to tablets and even to phones. There are even more subtle advances that most people don’t think about such as human-user interaction. We’ve come a long way from the keyboard and mouse.

Video games and the game consoles on which they are played are big business, with popular video games commonly selling over a million copies.

This is a topic we need to discuss. And we’ll do that on Technology Today Tuesday, December 3rd at 6pm EST. We’ll discuss the tech behind video games. Compare the new PlayStation 4 with the Xbox 1. We’ll also discuss SteamOS and its role as a competitor to Microsoft as an operating system for gaming.

Join us. Live at blogtalkradio.com/technologytoday on Tuesday, December 3rd at 6pm EST.

November 19, 2013 Posted by | Audience Communication | Leave a comment

2013CES – First Thoughts

This year’s CES did not disappoint. There was more to see than could be seen, even by an army of radio hosts! I spent much of my time in the digital health area looking at new technologies aimed to empower us to manage and guide our own health. I also caught a glimpses of what may be the next generation of mobile app capabilities. I’ll share my thought more on what I say on our next show – Tuesday, January 29th at 6PM EST.

Did you go to CES? Share your thoughts on Live on Air by calling the show at (323) 410-0032. You can also reach us by email, texts to 240-731-0756, facebook, our blog, our show page and on Twitter.

Technology Today airs on Live on the BlogTalkRadio network – the Online home for Internet Radio!. Join us Live Here.

January 17, 2013 Posted by | Audience Communication | Leave a comment

CES2013 LogoIt is almost time for CES 2013 – January 8-11 in Las Vegas.

This year, we’re asking our audience what new consumer electronics are of greatest interest to them. Let us know the new devices and technologies you want to add to your wish lists for next year? We’ll scope it out in the desert.

Areas of interest from past CES events include:

  • Televisions & Home Theater Systems – a mainstay
  • Tablets
  • Digital Health
  • Smart devices of all kinds

Listeners are invited to send in their thoughts – You can also reach us by email, texts to 240-731-0756, facebook, our blog, our show page and on Twitter.

Technology Today airs on Live on the BlogTalkRadio network – the Online home for Internet Radio!. Join us Live Here.

December 7, 2012 Posted by | Audience Communication | , , , | 2 Comments

Is Your Brand Still Wearing Bell Bottoms?

Wasn’t it mere minutes ago that we marketing types were gathered in the creative department staring wide-eyed at a teeny computer screen that not only smiled at us when booted up but also promised to usher us into a whole new era of possibilities?

Wasn’t it just yesterday that our entire office shared a single 14K modem?

Boy, do things change. And fast. The question is, have we changed?

Rapidly evolving digital technologies have given us a monumental opportunity for supercharging brands and staying engaged with customers 24/7. Social media, especially, has created the true two-way conversation that we’ve always dreamed of. And yet, most marketers continue to be stuck in the past, desperately trying to make their offline mindset work in today’s online world.

Rather than trying to cram in the proverbial square peg, progressive brand leaders understand that technology HAS fundamentally changed the branding discipline – and for the better. They also recognize that social media is not only about engaging the customer with the brand itself – it’s also about facilitating the customer’s engagement with others in the brand’s community through thoughtful conversations, meaningful content sharing and real-time interaction.

As a strategic brand communications firm that helps clients stay ahead of the curve by effectively leveraging new technologies and communication channels, we offer a few suggestions for snapping out of the old-school marketing trance:

• Brand Your Business: Remember, your brand is much more than your logo, tagline or marketing materials. Developing a comprehensive brand platform will facilitate deeper understanding and thinking about your brand and will help to strategically evolve it across an ever-growing multitude of traditional and digital channels.
• Don’t Get Lost in Translation: Once you develop a unique, multidimensional brand platform, think about how your brand needs to act in each of the digital channels you employ. Your brand will always stake the same overarching position, but different aspects of its personality will emerge depending on which party it’s attending.
• Stop Selling and Start Socializing: Each new digital channel and social media tool brings another opportunity to engage with your audiences on a more intimate, authentic level. It’s high time we all become more engaged and social with our stakeholders. Whether B2B or B2C, we need to offer creative ways to bring the customer into the brand story – and let them drive it, too.

Ida Cheinman
Principal / Creative Director
Substance151


Substance151 is a strategic brand communications firm for organizations on the edge of evolution – whether that evolution is inspired by the desire to leverage new technologies and social media channels or the knowledge that it’s simply time for a stronger, more compelling brand across all media. Our expertise includes every step of the branding process – from strategy through design, across print and digital media, and covering all aspects of marketing communications. For more information, visit http://www.substance151.com.

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May 1, 2012 Posted by | Audience Communication | Leave a comment

The 411 on International Business Technology Etiquette

The first text message I received was in India. It came from a young executive from one of India’s largest privately held companies. It read, “Gr8!”.

Initially, I thought he sat on his phone. Five minutes later, I realized he was responding positively to an e-mail I had sent earlier in the day. This was in 2005, and having worked previously in the conservative legal field – I was new to business texting. On that trip to India, I also received my first text advertisement on a cell phone, and had the first opportunity to check cricket scores on my phone, too.

My colleagues in the U.S. were not using their phones nearly as creatively back then. Now I routinely do all of those things – but it was commonplace in India before it was commonplace in my circles in the U.S.

There are over 903 million cell phones in India, by 2015 that number is expected to reach 1 billion. Which is great if you’re trying to transact business in India. In a time before cell phones, LAN line communication was horrible. Back then I wasn’t concerned about what I communicated; it was more whether I could communicate.

Nowadays, with India’s growing economy and 1.2 billion population, lots of businesses are interested in communicating and selling in the Indian marketplace. And many business folks are keen to understand India’s foreign culture, customs and manners. Which is important when doing business in India because the business environment in India is relationship-oriented. And knowing the etiquette in India is a sign of respect, and respect is a key component to creating trust that can foster a strong business relationship – in India as well as many countries and cultures around the world.

I see a high level of sensitivity in America to adapting to India’s culture; recently I taught someone how to eat with his hands (one hand – the right hand – to be precise). But with the rapid use of technology globally, people aren’t as sensitized to cultural etiquette applied to its use.

For example, it’s not considered rude to answer a cell phone in the middle of a business meeting. The use of voice mail is not widespread in India, so it has become acceptable to answer the phone, identify the caller and let them know you will return the call later. I knew a businessman who became visibly upset at having this done to him multiple times during a series of presentations. He felt that after traveling over 24 hours and spending over $10,000 to make a sales pitch to a prospective client, this was offensive treatment.

Had he been sensitized to the custom before he arrived in India, when he wasn’t struggling with a 10.5 hour time difference, it may not have been such a big deal.

Just as different cultures greet, eat and talk differently – they also leverage technology differently. If you’re doing business abroad, it’s a good idea to know the etiquette of technology.

By Sheila Khatri, Esq.
President, Moti International

April 10, 2012 Posted by | Audience Communication | 1 Comment

The Art of Advocacy – Healing a Young Adult with a Childhood-onset Chronic Condition (guest blog)

We all know how hard it is to advocate for ourselves, our spouses and our parents. But can you imagine having to advocate for your child day in and day out for the rest of your life? This is the harsh reality faced by many parents of children with childhood-onset health conditions and disabilities. And believe me, it is hard! When my perfectly healthy child became critically ill at the age of 8 years, I went from being a medical fellow to a life-long, full-time parent advocate.

I learned everything I didn’t want to know about the health care system, but I eventually realized that the knowledge I acquired as an advocate is equally critical to health care practitioners if they are to provide quality health care, i.e., the right care the right way at the right time. Adding the dimension of patient-centered care means care is delivered the way patients need and want it.

Right now, we are still learning how to advocate for the right care the right way at the right time. It looks like we’ll have to wait a while to get care the way we need and want it.

As a parent and a physician, I had to be extra careful in the pediatric health care world. If I came across as too demanding, I would have been dismissed as a neurotic or helicopter parent. (I know a couple of physician-parents who were erroneously said to have Munchausen’s Syndrome by proxy.) If I didn’t advocate, I risked danger. In every situation, I had to find the fine line between objectivity and subjectivity, to assure myself that I truly was balanced in my approach.

The problem is that even though most of us know what to advocate for, we are still dealing with human beings in the health care system. They have pressures and barriers, they have egos, they have feelings – and they have the knowledge. The art of advocacy is getting health care providers to do the following:

  • Provide the best care so the patient achieves and maintains optimal health, and
  • Empower patients with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions and self-manage their health and health care.

The art of advocacy should empower health care providers to practice the art of medicine.

Parent advocates have another equally complex system to tackle: the education system. After learning about all the various laws, e.g., American with Disabilities Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, parents have to learn about the culture of their child’s school as well as the county and state educational systems. Then, parents have to advocate with human beings in the educational system to practice the art of education.

When our children grow up and enter adulthood, all the rules change and we are back at square one again. The only consistency is that the systems are devoid of supports, and as parents, it is up to us to start over and learn from scratch on how to advocate for young adults with childhood-onset conditions and disabilities.

Santi Bhagat, MD, MPH
Founder, Physicial-Parent Caregivers

October 6, 2011 Posted by | Audience Communication | Leave a comment

Are your files safe? Let’s backup and find out! (guest blog)

Let’s face it, we are slaves to our computers. Over the years they have become the be‐all‐end‐all repository for our ‘stuff’. Email, pictures, even personal financial data can most likely be found somewhere on that magical 7,200 rpm array of platters known as your hard drive. It’s a great place to store your stuff, but what will you do when your valuable information is completely gone?

I’m usually pretty good about backing things up. I have automated jobs that run on my computer and will back up my important information like documents, Quicken data files, and the ever growing Outlook mail file. Every so often I’ll move these backups from my local hard drive to my personal folder on our LAN. From there they’ll be assimilated as part of our daily and weekly tape backups then inevitably become part of our ‘sneaker’ backups that walk out the door with me and go offsite to my home as part of our disaster recovery strategy.

Sounds foolproof, right?

Recently someone broke in to our corporate offices, ran down the hall, grabbed any computer that was in plain view, and ran out the rear exit. Fortunately they only managed to grab three boxes, but my work computer was one of them. On that computer was everything I had been accumulating over the many years of running my business. All my digital records were on that computer. I had email dating back 15 years, some from people who are no longer alive. I had job applications, resumes, contact information and corporate financial reports; and it was all completely gone in less than 5 minutes on a Saturday morning.

You can replace hardware quickly given the plethora of Best Buys and Office Depots that are scattered around town, so that part was painless. I had a new computer up and running in a few hours. However, when it came time to restore my data from backups, I found out that my backups were corrupt! Wait, it gets better. Not just one of my backups had failed, but all of them had failed! The LAN backups, the offsite tap backups, even DVD backups of my backups failed to relinquish my cherished data. There was apparently a flaw in my backup process which caused my original backups to be corrupt. So when I moved them to our LAN and eventually offsite, they too were corrupt. Needless to say, I really did have
to rebuild my digital information from scratch as all my records were gone.

I’ve learned a valuable lesson from this experience. While backups are great, they’re only great if they can be restored. Testing the integrity of a backup, whether it be a local backup, or a backup stored remotely, is a key component to ensuring that it can be restored. There are quite a few backup options out there in the world today. You can choose to backup electronically via a secured Internet connection, or you can use the old‐school ‘sneaker’ method and have your backup hand carried offsite. While both methods have their advantages, they are only as reliable as the underlying data being transported.

Although my backup experience failed me personally, no pun intended, I still see great value in offsite backups, especially for the corporate world. I highly recommend a combination of local backups for fast access to help cure the accidental ‘deletes’ which can happen on any given day. I also recommend replicating all workstation backups out to a shared LAN drive as that helps protect you when your workstation magically gets legs and walks out the door. Finally, offsite backups are a critical component to ensure that you can recover from any disaster in your facility. Sneaker driven backups, or electronically transported backups, either will offer a piece of mind key to the success of today’s business.

Michael J. Ryan
CEO
South River Technologies, Inc.

August 1, 2011 Posted by | Audience Communication | Leave a comment