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Possible Reasons for the Slow Progress of HIT

A recurring theme in our statewide workgroups tends to be health information technology. Participants share their frustrations regarding the painfully slow progress our industry is making in moving into the digital age. They wonder why we fall far behind other industries in implementing effective technology systems. Today I came across an interesting piece by Dr. John D. Halakma that actually pinpointed some of the unique challenges that the health care industry faces compared to other industries  (such as airlines, finance, etc) when it comes to “digitizing.”

1. Flow of funds — Hospitals and professionals are usually paid by a third party rather than directly from the consumer.

2. Hiring and training the workforce — Healthcare workers and providers are seldom employed by the actual hospital.

3. Negotiating Price — Prices are based on payment models dictated by someone other than hospitals and professionals.

4. Establishing referral relationships — Unlike industries who can develop their referrals, it is illegal to “market” services to those who control patient flow.

5. Standardizing the product — Every patient in healthcare is unique, therefore it is impossible to “standardize” a product or service to improve efficiency and quality.

6. Choosing the customer — In healthcare, your customer chooses you and in an emergency room, you must provide treatment regardless of ability to pay.

7. Compliance — Data regulation can require that an entity produce on-demand information from years back.

Dr. Halakma states, “The more complex a health system becomes, the more difficult it becomes to find any system design that has a higher fitness.” There have been impressive strides made in regions such as Humboldt – who’s solved a weak specialty network issue by relying on telemedicine – and San Bernardino/Riverside – who recently began a health information sharing project.

We look forward to hearing about similar innovations throughout the rest of the state!