The Value of HIT Lies In Getting Content Back Out, Not In Putting Content In

In 2002, Microsoft launched “Windows XP Tablet PC Edition.”  The tablets were expected to be groundbreaking productivity devices, but they failed to resonate with consumers.  Experts blamed the tablets’ weight, thickness, high cost, and need for a pen.  In 2010, Apple released the iPad.  It was a blockbuster that rapidly took the lion’s share of the tablet market, decimated the netbook market, and even “cannibalized” desktop PC sales.  The iPad was lighter, thinner, less costly, and far more stylish than the early Microsoft tablets.  Unlike the Microsoft tablets, the iPad offered a touchscreen and virtual keyboard designed for content consumption over content creation.  In other words, the iPad was more about listening to music, watching movies, surfing the Internet, and reading emails; and less about taking notes, authoring documents, creating presentations, and writing emails.

“Most people get more value from consuming useful information than creating it.”

In response, Microsoft released two touch-oriented operating systems (Windows 8 and Windows RT), and two direct competitors to the iPad (Microsoft Surface and Surface RT).  The new tablets were reasonably priced, thin, lightweight, and beautifully designed.  So how did they differ from the iPad?  Content creation!  With Office apps and a critically acclaimed keyboard-cover, Microsoft touted the Surface as “The most productive tablets on the planet.” Unfortunately for Microsoft, sales have been weak.  After upgrading the software and hardware, Surface market share merely grew “from dismal to bad.”

HIT valueIt turns out that most people get more value from consuming useful information than creating it.  That’s good, because if nobody will utilize the content, then creating it is a waste of time.  Apple succeeds where others fail because they focus on building better tools for consuming content.

Healthcare should take a lesson from the iPad playbook.  Most doctors greatly value the data they get out of EHRs and hate the work required to get data into EHRs.  Patients pay their doctors to gather and synthesize clinical data in order to make the right diagnosis and find an effective plan of care.  Nobody wants their doctors to shortchange that work to do data entry.  Yet, many EHRs over-focus on data entry, offering poorly designed data displays and the most rudimentary functions for searching and organizing patient data.  For example, most systems cannot automatically find every document mentioning a patient’s cancer.

In order to fully reap the value of Health IT, we must tip the scales back in favor of content consumption.  Natural Language Understanding, medical knowledge bases, clinical ontologies, advanced data visualizations, adaptive layouts, predictive analytics, and other modern technologies should automatically find, organize, and present patient data in ways that facilitate fast and effective decision-making.

We used to think people didn’t want tablet PCs, until the iPad changed everything by focusing on content consumption. Today, we think doctors resist using EHRs because they fear change, so our government is literally paying providers to start using EHRs.  By supplementing the EHR with new technologies that facilitate content consumption, we’ll get happier doctors and healthier patients.