HIT professionals must have 'customer empathy' when creating software

To create software that works, health IT professionals need to have "customer empathy," according to Todd Dunn, director of innovation for Intermountain Healthcare's I.S. Organization.

Often, IT professionals proclaim that "users don't know what they want," Dunn writes at InformationWeek Healthcare. But that statement is untrue, he says.

There is a great gap that needs to be filled between healthcare professionals who approach design with customer empathy and professionals who do not, he adds.

Issues faced by information systems organizations include delivering products without first understanding what exactly needs to be delivered, and not being sensitive to customer feelings and experiences, Dunn writes.

Some questions health IT professionals should ask, according to Dunn, include:

  • What are customers concerns and worries?
  • What do they hear from their bosses and influencers?
  • What do they want to gain from "hiring" a product or service?

Healthcare leaders also should look at the tone they are setting at their organizations and to what degree they are content with the status quo.

"Go on a customer exploration trip. Go see for yourself. And most of all, remember: Mindset matters," Dunn says. "When we act with a customer empathy mindset, our teams and customers will applaud."

One reason for the slow adoption of technology in healthcare is that oftentimes organizations create tech first and figure out how to use it later, Robert Pearl, M.D., writes at Forbes. Innovation should start with the goals of the end-user, he said.

In addition, too often HIT professionals create custom applications as add-ons to purchased software to get the results they want, Joe Kimura, chief medical information officer for Boston-based Atrius Health, said in June 2013. "We're not a software company," he said. "We don't want to build software."

For more information:
- read Dunn's commentary