Stop bringing Jell-O salad to the health care potluck

jello

By Bill Reid, SVP of Product Management and Partners, SCI Solutions

I grew up as a preacher’s kid in a small town in upstate New York. That means that I have had a lot of Jell-O salad at a lot of potlucks.

Now, Jell-O salad is not really a salad. But as a kid I loved calling it salad because my mother would tell me that I had to have salad to have dessert. Often, the only green thing I ate was lime Jell-O with marshmallows.

Jell-O has the great property of wiggling – it moves a lot without really moving from its spot on your plate. It creates the illusion that it is going somewhere, but it’s all just motion with no progress. A good health care executive friend recently equated health care to Jell-O – and when it comes to innovation inertia, she was right.

Unfortunately, I have seen Jell-O salad show up at health care “potlucks” – and by potlucks, I mean meetings.

You know the scene. Everyone gathers around with the agenda, pens, paper, laptops and cell phones. There appears to be a lot of movement, hand waving, commitments offered, statements of support, but when the meeting ends, the wiggling stops and there is not a sign of forward movement.

Health care is begging for innovative solutions to propel the industry forward. Information technology is frequently cited as a key tool for reducing health care costs and increasing the quality and safety of care, but to date the benefits have fallen short of expectations. Despite significant capital investments in electronic health record (EHR) technology, health care remains an astonishingly fragmented industry – with islands of information spread across independent providers, health systems and payers alike. Hospitals and health systems can’t just install an EHR and call it a day; they need additional tools to bridge their infrastructure to their wider health care community. EHRs were designed to operate within the four walls of their health system, and affectively capture data in this heterogeneous environment. Sharing it is not what these systems were built for – but the sharing of information is exactly what is required to effectively coordinate care.

Industry outsiders are often puzzled over the lack of more sophisticated, contemporary EHR platforms – especially given that other industries long ago began addressing workflow, data analysis, rules engine and collaborative communication requirements. Cross-enterprise electronic communications and transactions are the norm, not the exception, in banking, energy, retail, hospitality, transportation, manufacturing and many other industries. Thanks to software-as-a-service and cloud computing models, these technologies have become widely affordable. But they have not been widely adopted in health care – at least, not yet.

It’s time for health care to take a cue from other industries, and overcome its inertia when it comes to using technology to re-think business models, processes and the delivery of care. Let’s get moving and stop wiggling. Stop bringing Jello-O salad to the health care potluck.

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