We have a client who has his motto, “Make it easy, make it awesome”. This motto is clearly posted in every one of his urgent care clinics, visible to staff and patients alike. The first time I saw it, my immediate thought was, “Yeah, right.” I work in the field of health IT. Given the complexities of Meaningful Use, Accountable Care, patient privacy, population management, and patient qualities initiatives, do you seriously think anything is going to be easy? And I can’t even fathom awesome.
I have always preferred the phrase, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you,” and was having a difficult time reconciling the two seemingly divergent positions in my mind. Is it even reasonable to expect a health IT system, with the constant challenge of disparate data integration issues, lack of standard terminology, and competing government agendas to be “easy”?
If it were easy, everyone would already be doing it, right? Shouldn’t we be constantly innovating, challenging our users to push the envelope, to think outside the box?
After spending time with our client and watching his team work, it hit me. Maybe, I was missing the point. Maybe, we spend too much time pushing the envelope and we forget what the vast majority of our users really want. They want an easy way to answer the simple questions. They want the “who,” “what,” “when,” and “why” of healthcare.
It starts off innocently. We are asked by a user to build a simple metric to define a patient population based on specific criteria, but then we become our own worst enemy. What about this data exception? Wouldn’t it be cool if we could show this? But department “X” only wants to see things in a certain format. Can we build an interface for them in case they need access too?
All are questions that we could answer, but everything can quickly spiral out of control. One question, leads to another and we are suddenly complicating a simple question into a complicated algorithm that only a PhD statistician can decipher.
By accepting this self-imposed “challenge” to push the envelope we have taken the simple request, and quickly turned it into a 23-page requirement document and five-screen dashboard that needs a training tutorial and help desk backup to navigate. We still didn’t answer the simple question.
What if we turned the tables and started off answering the easy questions first? What if we empower our users to answer their own simple questions? What would health IT look like if we challenged ourselves to create an easy data framework of who, what, when, and why and then put it in the hands of our clients? Chances are the results would be pretty awesome.