Palm Pilots & Possibilities

With the recent ONC hearings on IT usability, there comes an inevitable discussion around how government can help increase the usability of systems in the healthcare world. I know, you are already chuckling.  However, this is no laughing matter. Metrics are already in place for the functionality needed to get certified, which criteria have eaten up thousands of hours of your vendor’s programming hours. Depending on who you ask, this leveling of the field is either fantastic or a huge waste of time. With the clear realization that functionality does not equal usability, the next question has to be tackled.  Are the systems usable?

For years it seemed that Eclipsys had the most usable system for physicians in hospitals. On top of that, Sunrise Clinical Manager has a great deal of functionality. Two key bases covered. Check. However, look at Eclipsys’ sales in the market last year and you will see that there are new trump cards: integration, proactive service, quality implementations and hosting. Start to measure usability as your yard stick and you will quickly see it is a slippery slope.

Does usability trump functionality? Does integration trump usability? Does a good implementation beat integration? I’m pretty sure that a three-of-a-kind beats a two-pair, and a flush beats a three-of-a-kind, but how do you make these sorts of declarations in a fluid IT environment?

I applaud the effort to understand up-front which systems will most likely help a provider to be successful. I cheer pushing vendors to make the systems as user-friendly as possible, which is a never-ending struggle. However, if a standard was set years ago for “smart” phones, we would all likely be using juiced up Palm Pilots, instead of gleefully downloading Angry Birds on an iPhone.

My suggestion is that we figure out which vendors are solving the problem--not which “tool” is the best, but rather which solution is making headway.

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