Fixing the Plumbing

Mark Kandryswatz — @markkandrysawtz

I had two major takeaways after attending the Connected Health Conference. First, I felt a huge sense of affirmation that the work we are doing is urgently needed in the industry. Moreover, I learned that our team’s collective knowledge and experience is significant—we’re on the leading edge compared to many others. I’m working to build a truly diverse team, so that we can harness multiple perspectives to solve healthcare’s most significant challenges. I heard the words “collaboration” and “partnership” in nearly every session of the conference. We’re living proof that it works.

Second, I learned why it's taking so long for the connected health tidal wave to make its way through the industry: healthcare's digital infrastructure isn’t adequate to support the gazillion connected devices and to drive the computing power necessary to crunch the ever growing universe of data. I was surprised, but excited, to meet investors and entrepreneurs who have realized this and are working to invest and invent infrastructure solutions so we can deploy and use all of the awesome technology that has been created in the past few years. When infrastructure catches up, expect an explosion of connectivity and data—that will be the moment all of us evangelists have been waiting for.

Papering Over the Cracks

Justin Kunkel — @justkunk

What I heard at the conference should have thrilled me. Everyone was talking about design! Interface design, process design, experience design. The power of design to change healthcare!

But I fear it was just a buzzword.

Accepting design as a methodology for change requires a change in thinking that I just don’t see. Maybe we’re just not there yet. With the system in the state it’s in, design can’t be window dressing. We can’t go in with the notion that we can change everything except anything that really matters. Good design starts with a root cause analysis. When you make the root cause unassailable, the process only works so well.

We’re implementing a lot of technology, but how comfortable are we that we’re laying it on top of a firm foundation? Technology is means to an end, and if you’re waiting on it to fix the problems in the system, I hope you have a patient boss. Designing for a better patient experience is a noble goal, but if you’re designing a rope bridge to get you over an endemic chasm, your efforts will be blunted.

I didn’t see many people talking about better delivery models. I didn’t see many people talking about restructuring care teams. I didn’t see many people talking about improving access. There were some, and those were the people that stood out. I met a lot of bright people who want to create change, but they all felt shackled in one way or another.

Maybe that’s where we should start.

A Challenge Worth Tackling

Josiah Heigel — @josyah

The HiMSS conference in Washington D.C. was an eye-opener. It made me wonder, “If so many people want to improve healthcare, then why is the road to industry change not only difficult, but seemingly impossible? And more importantly, why is it changing so slowly?”

We live in an age where innovation is the norm. It’s expected. While I do not mean to devalue anyone’s contribution, this conference highlighted the fact that we have so far to go compared to almost every other industry in our country.

Everyone knows there are mountains of regulations, unending security concerns and antiquated technology. Yet, we have conferences where every person attending seeks to see the same vision—change. This simple observation left me excited. Yes, you read that correctly. I’m excited. Excited about the opportunity.

The road will undoubtedly be difficult, but the untapped potential to change people’s lives in ways that really matter is what is the most thrilling proposition for me personally. It reminded me of what Benjamin & Bond can do for this industry. It reminded me that what we do matters. It reminded me that modern technology and proven design methodologies can help healthcare just as they’ve helped so many other sectors of American business. And finally, it reminded me that doing something that matters is worth the difficulty.

Disconnected Health

Mark Hammonds — @mrkhammonds

There were a variety of topics covered including mobile health platforms, cybersecurity, and population health management—all areas of conversation requisite to leverage tech in a meaningful way in a healthcare context. I attended session upon session and listened to everyone talk about how we need to change and where we need to go and what we need to do and this gizmo and that gadget. It felt schizophrenic.

Dissonance is the way of life in healthcare. We’re so captivated by concepts of profit and capitalism that we’ve largely lost sight of our purpose: to support the healing and prevention of disease. We tout these virtues as universal and continue to engage in the same maniacal behavior. Competition necessitates fragmentation; this is axiomatic. Fragmentation in the healthcare industry is costing us not only a lot of money; it is costing lives.

In the case of public goods, it has long been held that a monopoly provides efficiency, not competition. This is not a new concept. Every person with a lake or pond doesn’t start their own water company do they? After all that would mean that everyone would have to build their own delivery infrastructure to provide their water to consumers, else what good does their existence provide consumers? Right? Why do we look at healthcare differently? Why is everyone trying to build their own platform to take care of only a fraction of the demand?

No. The full promise of technology leveraged in healthcare will never come to fruition in this environment. We must reduce waste and replace our health IT infrastructure; we must consolidate. But to do so would require a financial undertaking so large none of us can do it alone. These resources could be freed from our wasteful system with a new paradigm, but how do we affect that shift? When will we be ready?