Monday, September 16 marks the beginning of the 8th annual Healthcare IT Week. Healthcare IT Week was started and continues on as a collaborative forum for public and private healthcare constituents to discuss the value of health information technology (health IT) for the U.S. healthcare system.
It is amazing to see how far health IT has come over the last 10-15 years. It has its own week! If, a decade ago, you told people that health IT would be a core focus of investors, entrepreneurs and everyone else in healthcare, the energy produced from the eye rolling alone could power the lights on the Las Vegas Strip for a month. The basic sentiment back then was this: Why would anyone invest in, think about, care about health IT when the consumer Internet was rocking and companies selling online dog food could get started on Monday and sold on Friday for a bull mastiff’s weight in gold?
Today it is quite clear that healthcare IT is a hugely significant part of any success we are having and will continue to have in transforming our healthcare system from one where 30% of cost and care is wasted or the result of error to one where value reigns supreme. We do not believe anyone rational would now argue that healthcare IT is non-essential to improving the quality, productivity, efficiency, cost and outcomes we produce in our healthcare system, although the path is not always smooth.
And it’s about time. Technology has been used to optimize and redefine virtually every key industry except healthcare. Manufacturing has gone from human assembly lines to robotics; banking has gone from tellers to home banking; travel has gone from agents with brochures to Travelocity; and yet in many ways, the fundamental practice of medicine hasn’t changed in decades.
Many of today’s most passionate entrepreneurs are trying to bring the dazzle and real promise of technology innovation to the challenges of healthcare, resulting in an explosion of companies focused on everything from wearable sensors and weight-loss apps to big data analytics and GPS-tagged hospital equipment—the “internet of things.” These emerging tools and promising technologies—which collectively comprise “digital health”—offer a promising path forward, and entrepreneurs and innovators are forging forward seeking to make a real difference in a vitally important field that is sorely in need of its own tender loving care if it is to flourish in tomorrow’s world.
The key challenge faced by would-be disruptive technologists is not only recognizing potentially useful analogs from other industries, but also understanding the ways in which health remains fundamentally different. Success in healthcare requires a nuanced understanding of the problems to be solved, since these problems are often less obvious and more personal than may be initially apparent.
Amid the clamor to disrupt healthcare, we should also take care to preserve and augment what may be right about medicine—the doctor/patient relationship for example, or the drive of inquisitive physicians, engineers and business people to continuously push and challenge the limits of what is known and what is possible.
As Hippocrates once said, “Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” And technology—if judiciously applied—may be just the tonic to help reinvigorate the health of our healthcare industry.
David Shaywitz and I have sought to capture the impact of the technology tremors reverberating through our healthcare system in Tech Tonics: Can Passionate Entrepreneurs Heal Healthcare with Technology? This newly-released book is a distillation of our writing and thinking over the last several years and particularly our thoughts about how we got where we are today and where these fields may be headed, including a ground-level view of the technology landscape, its structural challenges, players, progress and pitfalls.
In compiling Tech Tonics, we have particularly sought to chronicle the recent trials and tribulations of digital health, capturing the energy, passion, hope, and hype, the ambition—occasionally misguided—of wildly smart technologists trying to grapple with some of the most difficult challenges of the modern era.
Tech Tonics: Can Passionate Entrepreneurs Heal Healthcare With Technology, by David Shaywitz and Lisa Suennen, is available for download from Amazon by clicking HERE. For those who want electronic versions other than for Kindle, click on HyperInk Press. Hardcopy versions will also soon be available. We hope you enjoy it!
Jonathon Feit says
Shaywitz and Suennen are both fond of using quotes to punctuate and colorize their thoughts about Big Problems facing the American and global healthcare industry. Therefore it seems appropriate (“when it Rome…”) to do likewise in reviewing their latest book, “Tech Tonics.” It was the Harvard professor Laurel Thatcher Ulrich who famously said, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” The same can be said of the meek and unwilling to plow against the ironic tides of inertia, because change takes work and rarely succeeds on its own. Similarly can also be said for so-called “armchair quarterbacks” who know not of which they speak.
In contrast, Shaywitz and Suennen have crafted a compendium that radiates power and confidence while hinting at a mental Rolodex of case studies and experts to plumb for further evidence (if needed). This pair of internationally renowned experts on healthcare information technology –- either of whom could have written a worthy book on his or her own –- have done more than craft opinions from a distance. They have scars from the trenches of entrepreneurship so they understand the health IT sector’s complexity and have mentored, monitored, and/or built countless other companies, some of which succeeded big-time.
Finally – note Shaywitz and Suennen’s language: it is casual, unpretentious, and matter-of-fact (plus funny at times). This is emblematic because the authors write with a view of the front lines of healthcare IT innovation. Writers who whine mistake “volume” (often in the form of a rant) for credibility. But Shaywitz and Suennen have made careers of discovering, building, funding, and reporting the next generation of healthcare IT, so their pronouncements – served with a splash of irreverence – are worth seeing as a map or cypher to the Next Big Thing in healthcare and health IT.
Jonathon S. Feit, MBA, MA
Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer
Beyond Lucid Technologies, Inc.
Lisa Suennen says
Thanks Jonathon! I”m glad no one is accusing me of being a well-behaved woman! Lisa
Kevin Yen says
A fantastic collection of smartly grounded, expertly informed, and crisply written perspectives, insights, and references. I wholeheartedly recommend Tech Tonics to anyone innovating in health tech or even outside of health.
To the novice, the book provides an immediate, essential understanding of key stakeholders in health care — patients, providers, payers, pharma, and more. The novice will find no better place to begin.
To the expert, Tech Tonics represents a valuable refresher and welcomed refuge of non-hyped prognostications. I particularly enjoyed several nuanced observations that I haven’t seen publicly articulated elsewhere, e.g., viewing the capabilities (or lack thereof) of EMRs through the lens of the priorities/challenges of the executive customers running hospitals.
My one problem with this book is that it wasn’t around when I began in health tech 3-4 years ago, after 10+ years at Google, YouTube, etc. David, Lisa — Can you fix this, please? It would have made my life much easier as one of the technologists “hoping to apply lessons from other industries and other successes to health and medicine” 🙂
Lisa Suennen says
Hi Kevin, I wish I could cure your time travel problem. I wouldn’t have to work! If you have the inclination would love it if you would put your wonderful, generously kind review on Amazon… Warm regards, Lisa
Kevin Yen says
Will check Amazon for time travel machine, too.
Hard to imagine how you could be both so wrong and so right in the same ten paragraphs. I guess I will have to read the book to decide where to start my attempt at re-education.
– an engineer
Lisa Suennen says
Yes, right and wrong=my specialty! Lisa