Healthcare Together: Collaboration In Health IT

Kim Rushton

In the past decade, we’ve seen new technology solutions advance healthcare delivery and propel our entire industry forward. Celebrating National Health IT Week reminds us that to continue to fuel growth in healthcare — to create even more new systems and foster positive outcomes for patients, providers, and the health of the population as a whole — it is critical that our community focuses on collaboration.

Every project in the healthcare world has an underlying common goal: better patient outcomes. Today’s technology helps us to more efficiently and effectively achieve this, but it’s really just the beginning of what’s possible. What can we do to move from small steps to great leaps? Collaborate – both within our industry, and outside, in the wider IT world.

There are four vital interactions health IT companies must initiate for maximum industry advancement:

Collaborate with Providers: Connecting providers’ day-to-day operations with our technical knowledge.

Here at SourceMed, we have found that the best way to learn what technologies are useful to providers is to go directly to them. We conduct a variety of sessions with customers where we’ll pose questions on a topic and listen to their feedback. By learning about their daily activities, their needs, and the problems that they encounter, we can build solutions that will provide an immediate impact. We’ll also use these sessions to introduce providers to a new technology, and discuss how they may or may not potentially use it. What feels like the “next big thing” may not be useful, whereas a simple fix may have a dramatic effect on productivity For SourceMed, directly connecting our health IT professionals with those on the front lines of patient care has been immensely valuable.

Collaborate with Other Technology Companies: Encouraging partnerships to achieve more.

Interoperability is an ongoing challenge in healthcare. There is not, and may never be, a universal IT platform. Security and ease of information exchange across different systems has presented challenges. By collaborating with and learning from other technology companies, our industry can work toward a healthcare system in which data is fully shareable and accessible. There are times when it’s right to “build a better mouse trap”, but in many instances, truly great technology already exists. With better integration between solutions, we can accomplish more than we ever could alone.

Collaborate with Other Industries: Applying technologies that are effective outside of healthcare.

Looking toward technology companies that create solutions for other industries could serve as inspiration for those of us in health IT. From wearable fitness devices to the endless potential of smartphone technology, we’re already starting to see how the consumer electronics sector can inform healthcare technology. Another great source of opportunity is in the finance industry. Technologies used to process secure financial transactions are already being tested in some companies to create more secure transmission of patient data. The future may already be out there—we just have to look.

Collaborate with Patients: Listening to our ultimate end-user.

Earlier this year, one of the most popular sessions at the APTA Combined Sections Meeting featured patients sharing their experiences receiving Physical Therapy treatment. Their stories had an impact on everyone in the room. For most of us in health IT, the patient isn’t who actually purchases our solutions, but they are always in some way, our ultimate customer. Learning the patient’s perception of how technology impacts their treatment and access to their health data is important. Listening to their needs can guide us in developing efficient solutions that enable providers to deliver high quality care while also keeping patients informed.

It’s worth repeating that the ultimate goal of health IT is always to improve the health of the patient—but we can’t make things better by staying in siloes. We might invent the most technically amazing software, but if it doesn’t work with other systems, it’s no better than the antiquated ways of paper charts and schedules. If it doesn’t improve efficiency for providers or access for patients, it’s not likely to be adopted. The bottom line: We’re in this together, and all of us— health IT companies, the wider tech industry, providers, and patients, and—need to link up and look ahead to a future of collaboration.