U.S. National Health IT Week celebrates the essential role of health IT in transforming health and healthcare in the US. This year the week’s theme focuses on applying information and technology to support healthy communities.
Technology has tremendous potential to transform the health and well-being of communities. Telehealth solutions expand care access to rural and underserved geographies. Digital health management apps help consumers manage their conditions. Social platforms create relationships between patients, helping them build understanding, motivate to change, or gain access to resources.
But there’s also a community of people who are too often overlooked in healthcare IT design, decisions, and implementation: care team members.
Why Technologies Fail to Serve Care Team Member Well-Being
Technology is not inherently good or bad. It’s designed to serve a purpose. It either lives up to the potential of that purpose or it doesn’t. Often, one of the key factors determining whether technology meets its intended purpose is how well it’s designed to meet the needs and fit the workflows of its users.
When I was a Forrester Research in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I often heard that doctors were technophobes because they were slow to – or outright refused to – adopt the various clinical technologies that vendors, payers, and administrators were hoping would transform healthcare.
We had the second largest database of US consumer data, which included data representing a large group of doctors describing their technology adoption. We could see that doctors were decidedly not technophobes. They were early adopters of the Internet, online banking, online retail, and devices such as cell phones.
What doctors wouldn’t adopt were solutions designed primarily for billing and regulatory purposes that did nothing to advance their goals of providing excellent care. Too often these “solutions” created cumbersome workflows, disrupted team processes, or were simply hard to use. Technology is, without a doubt, one of the key forces shaping the future of healthcare. Technology can be a power for positive transformation, but only if the people behind it are thoughtful and human-centered in their approach.
The Future of Healthcare Technology is Humanized
Vocera recently launched the Caring Greatly™ Podcast, which showcases leaders transforming healthcare. I am the podcast host, and two of the first people I chose to interview have a focus on technology.
Norma Tirado, MBA, is Senior Vice President, Human Resources & Corporate Services at Spectrum Health Lakeland (formerly Lakeland Health). With oversight over both IT and human resources, Norma brings a distinctly human-centered approach to technology.
Lakeland has a culture of love, reminding team members and leaders that caring for patients is the system’s true north. Love is built into process and culture so that all Lakeland team members can bring their hearts to work, listen with love, and respect every person who connects with the system.
When I asked Norma how Lakeland’s culture of love translates into technology, she told me, “It's keeping the patient at the center of the technology implementation, deployment, and selection to make sure that we're implementing technologies that are going to help our caregivers make a human connection, and finding ways to put technology in place that are going to help our caregivers make better decisions.”
Sean Spina, PharmD, is Coordinator of Clinical Services at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, BC, Canada, part of Vancouver Island Health Authority. Sean has a passion for subjecting communication technology to the same rigor and testing that applies to medications to ensure the technologies benefit patient care and simplify care practice.
When I asked Sean what advice he has to offer clinicians with a similar interest in technology, he replied, “Think about how you want to improve the care system. Make sure it’s aligned with improving patient care, because that has to be the goal of all of us.”
I invite you to listen to these remarkable technology leaders, either by clicking on the links above, or by accessing the Caring Greatly podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. And as you celebrate the potential for IT to support healthy communities during NHIT Week 2019, remember the community of care team members who deserve technologies that support their resilience, well-being, and joy in practice.