5 Things Health IT Can Learn from Twitter

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) is currently having their annual conference and exhibition. Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, was the keynote speaker today. CDW Healthcare took Mr. Stone's presentation as an invitation to reflect on the "5 Things Health IT can Learn from Twitter." Here are the five lessons, which can be found in full on this site - http://industryview.cdwcommunit.com/index.php/2012/02/21/5-things-healthit-can-learn-from-twitter/. I'll post some of my commentary after.

  1. 1) It’s about people, not technology. We know this instinctively by the nature of our organization, but sometimes the forest perspective loses out because we have to spend so much time on the bark that falls off the trees. Similarly, twitter gets a lot of hype and all of its nuanced features. But it’s really just a tool. A technology. As Biz said, “Humanity moves forward with help from technology – it’s all about the people, it’s not about the technology.” A good reminder that ICD-10, meaningful use, telemedicine, PACS, and all those other acronyms are all about the patients we serve.
  2. 2) Technology utilized correctly inspires spontaneous, coordinated action. Twitter enables groups of people to swarm together (like birds) and move together as one organism to get things done. Biz also told a great story back when Twitter was in prototype phase. A tech guy at a pub after a long conference day tweeted that it was too loud in there and that he was moving to another pub. Within 8 minutes (and lots of retweets), 800 people had lined up at the other pub. How can healthIT do that for our clinical teams? “Code RED” on the PA system works very well, but are there new ways to think how our cross-functional teams work together?
  3. 3) Technology utilized correctly takes the firehose of information and turns it into actionable wisdom. Twitter enables people to take infinite information, turn it into understanding, and turn it into action. It’s not about information, it’s about knowledge/wisdom. The Arab Spring twitter story is a great example of that. With the boatloads of data that’s being stored up in our servers (and this is just the tip of the very beginning), how do we make all that information so easy to digest, analyze, and act upon that data for multiple user types?
  4. 4) Not Invented Here. Baked into Twitter’s culture is this core value: “there are more smart people outside our company than inside.” Especially for the complicated, ever-evolving field of HealthIT, we’ve learned this lesson time and again – we rely on the fellowship of colleagues, friends, and experts and attend events like HIMSS.
  5. 5) Technology enables culture change. Think about how smartphones has changed the nature of work and of family. As more sophisticated healthIT technologies continue to emerge, addressing the emotional/cultural aspects of the implementation of the technology may very well be just as important as the technical side of things. As we enter into an era of wearable devices and other health-awareness devices (Biz has a scale at home that shoots his weight information into a cloud where his friends can keep him accountable), demands for better, faster, more accurate, and more actionable information will only grow. This will continually moving the patient/provider relationship, and in turn, change the role that we in HealthIT play – not just as technical experts, but culture change agents.

All good points to remember and apply to Health IT, but numbers 3 and 4 resonate with me in particular.

Technology utilized correctly takes the firehose of information and turns it into actionable wisdom. This is an issue that we've really tried to impress on health facilities. As evidence-based medicine grows in popularity and practice, it will become increasingly important that the correct information is collected in its entirety. Structured data collected in electronic synoptic reports expedites the process of moving this information into the necessary places. We at mTuitive think it's a better method than recording the information without any sort of rules or structure, and therefore requiring more processes (and more time and more resources) to then get that data out of the records and where ever they need to be. So much information is collected but set adrift amidst an ocean of text - text that has no bearing on healthcare - or else the data is in a format which prevents easy access for other healthcare providers.

So much information is being recorded in so many different programs, products, sheets, venues and machines. It leads to number 4, Not Invented Here which is important in healthcare - and to us - because everyone needs to collaborate better. To quote The Wire, "Everything is connected. Everything matters." What is entered in System X about a patient needs to be available for System Z about that same patient. We need to accept that there are other solutions out there, and we need to learn to work together. Because, ultimately, Health IT is about the patients, the people, and about helping everyone. We need to be more open to making these introductions to other organizations, creating partnerships with each other and come together to improve health IT on every level.

Empowering data - making it easier to find the data you want - is only helpful if it can be shared and used for better research and better care. Integration, interfacing and collaborating needs to be an easy process between vendors that doesn't put the onus on facilities or providers. Everyone believes in his or her own product, but everyone knows that his or her own product is limited in some way. That's OK - together we compliment each other and make a better experience and therefore ensure a better outcome for all patients.

Here is Biz Stone's site/blog and be sure to follow him on Twitter.

HIMSS 2012 is still going on RIGHT NOW in Las Vegas - from February 20th to the 24th - so stop on by if you're in the area. To find out more about it, be sure to check out the site.

To read more of CDW Healthcare's excellent posts, they are highly recommended and very insightful, please go to their page.