What does it mean when people say that technology is changing the health care system? That’s a question that is being asked increasingly frequently. That issue has been the subject of many keynote speeches over the last decade. And hopefully the following five responses shed some illumination on the reality of technology adoption within health care. Too many new technologies either solve one problem or create another. Technology entrepreneurs tend to take a backwards approach to innovation.
Too many health care innovators focus only on solving one problem, and then they move on to develop another product. This “innovation treadmill” often results in companies developing products that have several positive attributes, but not enough unique features to distinguish them from their competitors. In my opinion, there are at least six forces that drive innovation in health care. The authors of this article identified six forces, which they defined as six key drivers of innovation.
physicians and patients
The first group of drivers includes physicians and patients. Technologists may play a role in this process as well. The second group of drivers includes policy makers such as policy makers at both the state and federal levels, as well as policy makers in special interest groups such as labor unions and consumers. Policy makers typically determine whether technology adoption is beneficial to the public, and they generally set the guidelines for how the process should be conducted. They also decide whether the benefits derived by adopting new technology justify the costs.
The third group of drivers includes entrepreneurs. This includes both private and public entrepreneurs, as well as organizations that provide direct financial support to physicians and hospitals. These entrepreneurs are generally looking to take advantage of new technology to drive down the cost of health care. They typically support primary care physicians, but sometimes they back research-oriented hospitals. For example, venture capital-backed hospitals in Seattle focus on high tech, computerized, minimally invasive surgery.
politicians and public policymakers
The fourth group of drivers includes administrators and others at the state and federal level. These include chief executives, commissioner of agencies, secretaries, and other public administrative personnel. They have the opportunity to directly influence how physicians adopt new technology. At the same time, these same administrators also have the opportunity to tell physicians what they do not want them to do. In many cases, secretaries also exert pressure on physicians to adopt certain practices within the hospitals, such as unnecessary tests or excessive documentation.
The final category of drivers includes politicians and public policymakers at both the state and federal levels. They can have a profound impact on the way in which physicians adopt new technology. For instance, some politician may believe that the doctors’ interests are best served when certain standards are not adopted, while other politician believes that certain standards would be good for the overall health care system. Because politicians regulate many aspects of the health care system including physicians and hospitals, they can play a role in making certain that new technology is adopted and that it is used in the most effective manner possible.