Health Tech Needs Clinicians for Innovation

by | Nov 18, 2022 | Blog, Feature

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There is amazing technology being released almost every day. Like a supersonic jet which claims it can travel from Los Angeles to Sydney in 8 hours (instead of 14 ½). Or a handheld device that reads text out loud from any printed surface or digital screen. Or an electric, autonomous delivery truck.  

Healthcare is no exception. With everything from EHR- and device- agnostic collaboration platforms for clinical teams to robots that interact with kids at medical appointments to reduce their stress and increase cooperation, health tech is innovating like every other industry. 

However, there is a gap between healthcare innovation and clinical practice. People in health tech would be shocked at how many clinicians still use paper, phone calls, email, and other tools to take notes and communicate. Even if they use an EHR, many clinicians jot down information throughout the day on sticky notes or pads of paper. They send faxes. They text and email one another. Patients still get phone call appointment reminders and letters in the mail. We have all this cool technology, so where is the problem? 

Problems with Health Tech Implementation

The problem is that while this technology is available, it is not widely adopted in clinical settings. In other industries, new tech is rapidly adopted while older technology is quickly made irrelevant. Yet in healthcare, faxes and pagers are still used daily. There are a few big problems with implementing new technologies – especially new software – into healthcare. 

One problem is money. Healthcare organizations have already had to spend tons of money on their EHR, so they are often hesitant or resistant to buying new software. They often believe their EHR can do everything, and that purchasing additional software is unnecessary. EHRs were not designed for the delivery of care, but additional software can optimize the EHR to enhance efficiency, improve outcomes, and increase reimbursement. The question is, how do you convince people to buy a product if they think they already have something that does the same thing? 

Another problem for technology adoption is resistance from the care team. This hesitancy is understandable: clinicians have used a lot of poorly designed technology that adds extra, unnecessary work to their already over-packed schedules. Do they really want to spend hours and hours learning a new tool that they worry may overcomplicate their work further? And if clinicians don’t use the tech their organization already has, are leaders really going to purchase new technology? 

Involving clinicians in health tech innovation, from design through implementation, can help address the issue of clinician resistance and create a product that provides strong financial value to organizations.  

How Clinicians Can Help Health Tech Innovation

Clinicians can provide accurate details of what clinical practice is actually like and highlight problems that they face. They can provide insight into why certain solutions are not feasible, because of regulations, processes, staffing, etc. Clinicians also offer insight into what the current problems are in health organizations and what leaders care about when determining if it’s worthwhile to purchase new technology. Without input from practicing clinicians, people designing health technology are making assumptions about clinical practice that may end up making the product cumbersome or useless to clinicians. 

Clinician input is important throughout the entire development and implementation process for technology. In early stages, clinicians can help guide tech to fit into clinical workflows. In initial testing, the clinicians can point out the things that do not work well, so these fixes can be corrected early, before large implementations. Clinician input is also important for implementation and training. Most clinicians have used annoying health tech before, and they may be skeptical that the new technology will just add more to their workload. However, clinicians know the struggles of their peers, so they can help suggest the best way for training and implementing the technology in a way that other clinicians will be responsive to.

Considerations for Companies Involving Clinicians in Tech Innovation

There are a few things to consider when getting clinician input on technology innovations. The first is time and compensation. Do you hire someone with clinical experience to work full-time for your company, even if they are no longer practicing? Do you hire a clinician part-time or as a consultant? Do you pay practicing clinicians to do interviews and focus groups? This decision likely depends on what your technology is, who it is geared towards, and what experience and knowledge you already have on your team. 

Another important consideration is to get a varied sample of clinical input when applicable. Clinical teams are interdisciplinary and may include physicians, nurses, pharmacists, physical and occupational therapists, social workers, mental health professionals, and more. Additionally, if your technology is for a wide range of clinical settings, it is important to get representative feedback. If you say your product works for every clinician in every setting, only getting feedback from physicians at a primary care clinic is not representative. 

And then there is  balance. While clinicians provide expert knowledge on what work is like in a clinical setting, they are often not experts in technology. Clinicians may suggest a solution that is not feasible or that is not as efficient as another solution. Discussing both the problems and the solutions with clinicians can help the team create technology that is most effective at solving the problem. 

If you’re a tech company, how do you involve clinicians in your technology development process? Or if you’re a clinician, how would you want to be involved in new health tech innovations? Let us know on social media.

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