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Providers Lag as Healthcare Consumers Set Agenda

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, April 15, 2014

HLM: How does traditional healthcare stack up to other sectors in the use of technology?

CW: Other industries became digital decades before healthcare became digital. Banking, for example, became digital in the 1970s with digital data sharing around money transfers. You've got the digitization of media and retail that occurred around the turn of the century.

Healthcare didn't become digital until just a couple of years ago. We are four decades behind finance and one to two decades behind most other industries that have been transformed through digital technology. You can't create these new business models that we see in banking and retail as well as media if you don't have digital information.

HLM: Why is traditional healthcare a laggard on technology?

CW: It's been a mom-and-pop industry that has been very local in nature and hasn't ever been scaled on a mass basis where leveraging technology for economies of scale made a difference. When you look at traditional healthcare providers, physicians for example, their view was that adding this digital overlay was unnecessary.

It was an overlay in addition to what they would do on a paper basis. They said, 'Look, if you ask me to put digital information into an electronic health record, I will see fewer patients, it will be more cumbersome, and it provides no value to me or the patients. It just provides value to some other higher healthcare systems of organization and so unless you are willing to pay me to digitize this information, I am not going to do it.'

So, what happened with Obamacare is that they created carrots and sticks to create additional information.

Healthcare providers are also very traditional in the way they provide care. They follow what they learned in medical school and medical schools and haven't even been teaching about digital healthcare until the last couple of years.

You have an entire industry that is trained on analog protocols that have never required digital information so nobody knows how to do it.

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2 comments on "Providers Lag as Consumers Set Agenda"


jim Cullen (4/27/2014 at 11:40 AM)
Excellent article. Let us all embrace consumer directed health care. It is the only thing that can save us from a government run system which is the anathema of our free market system. Price transparency, patient portals, providers who put the customer first are key ingredients of a feasible consumer directed system. We need the current providers to grasp these concepts and move to fully implement them.

pete.kelley (4/15/2014 at 8:10 PM)
Americans will have to have a serious discussion about medical liability reform, if the "retail healthcare" model comes to pass. If the "doctor" diagnoses and treats the rash based upon a smartphone picture, but the patient doesn't notice and mention the lymphadenopathy, is the doctor liable for not diagnosing the patient's lymphoma?