Katya Samardina

What Can Health IT Learn from Detroit? How the Demise of the V8 Can Inform Healthcare Integration

I love my muscle cars. I am a huge muscle car fan. Nothing like the rumble of a big V8 engine and the smell of burning rubber to get the pulse racing. Healthcare has lagged behind other industries in terms of technological advancement. But that is about to change.

However—day in, day out—I drive a Hyundai as my daily drive, while my trusty V8 stays in the garage for a nice sunny Sunday drive.

I know we often think of the current wave of technology disruption as unique—something that’s just happening right now. But in terms of the pace of change and the speed at which things happen, I think it’s faster than it’s ever been before. Technology disruption has always been there, and in the case of my trusty V8, we can learn a lot from Detroit and the demise of what was once a great American industry.

For car buffs, the story is fairly well known. The American automotive scene dominated in the ’50s and ’60s and produced some amazing-looking vehicles. With the addition of more power and butch looks, they went on to create the muscle-car era, which lasted into the 70s. GM, Ford, and Chrysler had a good thing going, and to grow revenues, the attitude was “Let’s do more of the same, but bigger!” 

Unfortunately for the big automotive companies, consumer behavior was changing, expectations were growing, quality became more important, and the oil shock was a killer blow. Imports from other markets showed consumers that small, reliable, high-quality cars could offer a better experience.

Certainly incorporating evolving technology into your products is a good thing, and can help shape the future user experience. The first Japanese imports weren’t necessarily anything to write home about, but careful iteration and slow improvements—combined with clever innovation—grew these fledgling brands into the biggest names in auto manufacturing. Meanwhile, my friends at GM, Ford, and Chrysler continued to produce bulky, poor-quality, fuel-hungry cars.

There is a lesson here for healthcare. Healthcare integration technology has been something of a laggard compared to other industry verticals. While other industries were forced to open their boundaries and think differently 20 years ago (mainly due to plucky young upstarts disrupting the value chain and disintermediating the incumbents), healthcare has been a little slower and more cautious. The privacy, security, and funding models have had a lot to do with this. However, like GM, Ford, and Chrysler, things are slowly starting to change.

Through a combination of targeted policies, escalating costs, and the desire to create patient-centric experiences, health is starting to change. New standards such as FHIR will enable new integration technologies and interoperability, but there are no silver bullets. I believe the trick is to have proven technologies in your organization that continue to support known integration standards and work in a “pluggable” way with existing systems, such as legacy EMRs. 

To support this, we need to slowly modernize the framework to enable modern integration patterns that support high throughput data ingestion. It’s not one or the other—they need to coexist. On top of this, we should look to add technology layers that compliment this data aggregation with the ability to create and orchestrate services. I believe this model suits healthcare well and gently eases us into the future without throwing the baby out with the bath water. Toyota and Datsun didn’t reinvent the automobile; they used the existing technology, but had a different approach to execution.

In recent times GM, Ford, and Chrysler have recreated the nostalgia of the muscle car era by reintroducing models such as the Camaro, Mustang, and Challenger. These are awesome cars that are a throwback to the old days, but with a modern twist. Some of these brands have their muscle cars co-exist with smaller, efficient vehicles, and this blend seems to be working well. Now they are enjoying success by meeting the requirements of different market segments. Others have completely missed the market, and I suspect won’t be around in years to come.

When it comes to healthcare integration, you need to figure out how to enable your organization to adapt, change, and understand who your customers are and what they are looking for. Once this is understood, look for the solutions that help you confidently step into this space without compromising the reputation that you have already established. Finding a reputable partner that you can trust to understand the landscape through a proven track record, and then help you extend functionality through new innovation, will help you succeed in this journey.

The V8 is not dead. It has its place, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution anymore.

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