Want technology adoption? Make it easy to use

I've been immersed in cutting-edge technology and stories about the same for the past day and a half while at the sixth annual Healthcare Unbound conference in Seattle, a city that is a hotbed of technological and healthcare innovation itself. Some of this is hype about health 2.0 and personal health records--two subjects I remain skeptical about until I see evidence that people are using those technologies in significant numbers (true about health 2.0, not so much with PHRs) and until companies in those areas find viable business models (still waiting on both counts).

I'm actually starting to see progress, and mobility is a key driver. "I can assure you there is no iPhone adoption problem among physicians," said Dr. David Kibbe, a Chapel Hill, NC-based consultant and senior advisor on IT to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Two of his five "disruptive innovations" that are transforming healthcare are tools to close the "collaboration gap" between providers and patients and telehealth technologies. (I'll touch on the other three Thursday in FierceEMR.)

A concrete example of collaboration working comes from Seattle's own Group Health Cooperative. In a test of the patient-centered medical home, the integrated health system and HMO found that patient and physician use of secure electronic messaging soared. "I can't say enough about email messaging," said Dr. Claire Trescott, Group Health's director of primary care. She said that Group Health experienced a 90 percent increase in online message threads during the first year of the pilot, even though she thought it might take two to five years to see a real change in the numbers.

Likewise, the Regence Group, the Blue Shield affiliate in Washington state, has a positive experience with remote monitoring as part of a medical home project. Senior Medical Director Dr. Joseph Gifford said that the health plan enlisted nurses to get people to use and send results from their monitoring devices. "It's not obvious," Gifford said. "You need to explain the connection between blood pressure and COPD." Nurses are the ones to help patients make the connection.

"It's not the gadgets, it's the workflow," he added.

Actually, I'm finding that sometimes it is the gadgets, as some of this week's Top Stories illustrate. I suspect that it takes a good gadget and a good, easy-to-understand workflow to make new technologies work--whether you're dealing with a doctor, nurse, case manager or consumer. The companies that figure this out are going to thrive. - Neil