Perhaps one of the more underrated phenomena in healthcare is physician burnout. There isn’t nearly enough attention paid to the topic compared to its national prevalence and deep negative impact on overall patient care. In many ways, an unfair majority of innovations and new technologies are focused on the patient, and not enough are focused on the humans caring for the patient, so to speak.
Day One featured almost zero discussion on the topic, but Day Two started off with several mentions and then escalated to a consistent theme on both the main stage and in breakout sessions.
In short, clinicians, and physicians specifically, are frustrated. They are burnt out.
“Physicians spend 2 hours typing to every 1 hour seeing patients,” said Jesse Ehrenfeld of the AMA on stage.
We then heard over and over how unhappy the provider cohort is with the state of technology and the burden new technology is putting on them.
This is a big deal.
What is the future of “interoperability”?
The day brought several presentations from different organizations discussing the very thing Day One participants begged to have: better collaboration and partnership. (In fact, that message was echoed again: Walgreens and the U.S. Government both said on stage they view collaboration among organizations as the single biggest key to their growth objectives.)
We saw APIs talk about silver bullets, and that being the path towards interoperability.
We saw PHRs talk about the importance and magic of putting data into patients’ hands via mobile apps, and that being an example of interoperability.
We saw Blockchain—again.
We saw new sources of data, or different data types, and that being a new angle on interoperability.
We then saw apps who get data into the hands of doctors via tablets as a breakthrough in interoperability, but didn’t really discuss how they get the data, just that they display the data.
Here’s the thing: What we didn’t have was voices from Epic, Cerner, eCW, or McKesson talking about how they would make data access via their EHRs easier. We didn’t hear how providers and payers have little to no incentive—still, even with value-based payments looming—to share their data. And we didn’t have a conversation around the politics it takes to complete simple integrations, which are the building blocks of interoperability.
We’re not sure Health 2.0 can really tell you what the future of interoperability is. In many ways, it’s an idyllic vision, and should be what we are all striving towards. But in many other ways, the conference seems to skirt talking about the real issues that make interoperability tough. Issues that are dirty, muddy, boring, not fun, serious, multi-faceted, and take forever.
Interfaces (UX/UI) are really maturing
There were many impressive demos throughout the entire day. People are working on truly novel ideas that look gorgeous, even if interoperability is still a challenge!
A big take away is the maturity in application interfaces. Things are really getting good.
By far the best demo of the entire conference was from Human Longevity. Not only was their gene sequence search tool mind-blowing, but it was so obvious their interface—a simple search box!—is the eventual endgame for data discovery. Think about it: Digital Natives (could also be said as “Millennial Doctors”) are already accustomed to a simple search box. They already know how to slice and dice via an input mechanism. This has been discussed at length in other industries where “bots” and “chat interfaces” are exploding in popularity. It’s a thing. A hierarchical taxonomy for the navigation of an EHR is so…pre-Google. Eventually getting to the point of powerful search, layered with bots and true machine learning, is the future. Like the real future, one that is adopted by clinicians.
Other interfaces were impressive, too. Demos featuring voice technology, especially Amazon’s Alexa, were fantastic. We thought WELL Health had an elegant and impressive app UI that could be adopted instantly by the target user base.
If there is one thing healthcare can learn from it’s industry siblings, is that true, differentiating innovation can happen at the human interface layer. Google, Slack, Apple, and others have taught us this. The other compelling insight is interface innovations are often the easiest new technologies to absorb. There is no reason why search, “feeds and speeds”, or voice inputs can’t be a true wedge.