The news you need to stay well informed and up to date with industry trends.

Abstracting Away the Complexity

May 19, 2017 | Uniphy Health

by Chuck French, Chief Strategy Officer, Uniphy Health

Recently, I attended a presentation at Becker’s annual conference regarding physician burnout. The presenter recommended a nonclinical, nonhealthcare book entitled “Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations” by Thomas Friedman.  I’m still reading it, but have enjoyed it enough to recommend it to many of my colleagues (and pretty much everyone I meet).

In the book, Friedman makes the case that we are in a revolutionary environment on par with the Industrial Age. He cites many examples of the incredible pace of change that we, as humans, are really not designed to handle. He uses Uber as one of his prime example to illustrate disruption and change. As most people in healthcare know, everyone wants to claim they are the “Uber of Something”, but it’s never clearly defined. In Friedman’s view, Uber took the complex process of getting a taxi (i.e. call a cab company, provide an address, wait, find the car, give driver directions, pay for fare, etc.) and “abstracted the complexity away” for the end user. For those of us living in an area with Uber, you just can’t believe how much easier it is. Are there complexities in the process? Absolutely! Do we experience them as an end user? No – at least not in the way it used to be.

This brings us to our healthcare system. Not just ours, but everywhere in the world.

Why hasn’t healthcare innovated at the same pace as other industries? I know all of the excuses…health care is complex, sales cycles are longer than other industries thereby making the emergence of new technology slower, regulations, physicians are not apt to change, and on and on. And, because of these traits, our health care system remains one of the few bastions of the fax machine. I mean it – you want to send something important, you send it via fax. It’s much more likely to be read than sending an email. Crazy, right?

Healthcare delivery organizations are trying. We see more and more innovation departments at major hospitals and health systems. These organizations are investing and piloting at a rate not imaginable a decade ago. We’re also seeing more and more start-ups designed to increase the pace of innovation. It’s not enough.

What’s one thing a healthcare delivery organization can do, that’s within their control, to prepare themselves for an increased speed of innovation? Hint, it’s not investing more in the electronic health record system. It’s also not investing in point solutions and requiring end users to learn another application (physicians don’t need another application!). Rather, it’s creating an enterprise-wide platform to connect and abstract complexity away from stakeholders in the care continuum so they can better communicate, collaborate and provide better patient care. Such a platform would be mobile-first, roles based, extensible (so it can invoke other applications and functionality), scalable and extremely easy to use. This digital experience layer doesn’t need to be expensive, but can unlock the potential of the underlying systems.

Is this a dream? Nope. It is happening now. And, as a benefit, a user experience platform can improve engagement and reduce physician burnout.

Healthcare delivery organizations can lay the pipes for this future world. It’s totally in their control, but it requires an investment (albeit relatively small) in a platform that recognizes we live in a dynamic and not a static world. As humans, we can only adapt so much to all of this change.

Let’s abstract the complexity away.