On the Soapbox: Meaningful use and ICD-10 aren't the enemies of innovation

Carl Natale
by Carl Natale

More than 100 healthcare executives converged upon the the Institute for Health Technology Transformation’s Seattle summit to discuss the advancement of telehealth and mobile health in the United States.

[See also: Telehealth conference talks about innovation, disruptive technology | Healthcare IT News]

[See also: Health IT Stakeholders Discuss Mobile Health, Telehealth Innovations - iHealthBeat]

Healthcare IT News started its account of the two day conference with remarks from Bill Spooner, chief information officer for San Diego-based Sharp Healthcare. Apparently Spooner is concerned that meaningful use and ICD-10 would stifle innovation. “It’s going to be a challenge these next few years to do these things that are required,” he said.

Spooner is right that it will be a challenge. In fact, there are a lot of challenges coming at the healthcare industry:

  • HIPAA 5010
  • Meaningful use
  • ICD-10
  • EHRs
  • Healthcare reform

So if Spooner is right, innovation will never happen. With all that's going on, it's a wonder doctors have time to treat patients. Who is going to have the time to innovate?

Why this is so wrong

If everything was easy, perfect and economical, no one would ever innovate.

Innovation is the process of making things better, and this is exactly the kind of environment that produces innovation. Especially since solving all these problems is going to cost money. Big money.

When there is this kind of money being paid to big players, it's setting the stage for disruptive innovation. Basically that means there's incentive for someone to come along with ideas that cost much less money and solve some of these problems. Note, the solutions will bring in less revenue too. But those ideas will grow from those smaller business models.

Think about Netflix vs. Blockbuster.

Hi I'm Carl, and I'm a recovering  journalist

I bring this up because I worked in newspapers and was part of the transition to online publishing. Newspapers embraced the Internet because they were trying to reverse revenue losses induced by a recession in the early 90s. Internet versions of the paper were ways to cut costs and be part of the future.

It didn't quite work out as planned.

But it taught me a lot about innovation. And I know it's healthcare's turn.

'Tell me where it hurts'

There are problems in the healthcare industry. Patients and physicians have complaints. This is pain.

Innovation is about easing pain.

Medical practices that are feeling the pain caused by all the challenges that I listed above and can't afford the price tag need to innovate. Do things differently. Look for disruptive innovation - which is about using technology to ease the pain in new, low cost way. It won't be perfect but it will solve a common problem.

Sure, the big healthcare information technology firms will downplay it. It won't do everything their big systems do. And it won't cost as much.

But it just may hit the sweet spot that eases pain, sacrifices some features and costs less.

It has happened the computer manufacturing, music, movies, television, journalism and photography. And it's about to happen to healthcare.

And it's going to happen because of meaningful use and ICD-10. Not in spite of it.

Let me be fair

If that was the prevailing attitude, no one would go to a two-day seminar on healthcare innovation. So innovation is happening.

The rest of the Healthcare IT News account summarizes the conference. What's most promising is the recognition that using technology simply because you can isn't enough. It's about the what the user needs.

I'm just going to tweak that a bit. It's about easing the user's pain.

So when you have too much pain to innovate, that's a sure sign you need to innovate.