According to the Book of Genesis, Abel was the first human to die – excessive bleeding from the gash inflicted by his brother Cain resulted in his demise. This metaphor leaves no doubt in my mind that the need for medical care is quintessentially eternal. And as the need for healthcare has evolved so has technology. Expanding human population, diversity in the nature of ailments, and the desire to get paid swiftly and without much hassle for rendered services has lead to the ever pressing need for a technological solution; one that streamlines the quality of care with as much reduced cost as possible. The dawn of modern healthcare-driven technology makes this possible. While revolutionary advances in healthcare IT ameliorate the quality of care rendered, they also pave the way for a plethora of vendors claiming the sky and the moon when it comes to the flexibility of their application.
The ’60s roped in the dawn of information technology in healthcare with a focus on financial and clerical systems. The methodology to run these systems was by mainframe computers from the Flintstone era and this made it possible to produce basic management reports, but left an ever-burning desire for customization. What these Flintstone systems did was give the medical care professionals the ability to generate a bill for a clinical encounter but virtually lacked the capability to keep record of the patient’s medical history. As the world grew older, the unforgettable ’80s blitzed in and the sprouting of pre-modern computing and profund networking technologies gave way to more clinically-oriented computer systems for healthcare. These systems proved to be more adept at supporting administrative functions, and EMRs from that period started to exfoliate functions such as results and order entry systems. As healthcare IT continued to make vituperative leaps and bounds, more and more vendors entered the prevalent environment and healthcare IT companies started to offer a platform for nascent design and integration with clinical workflows, and implementation. This turned on a race, a race for excellence, where every vigilant vendor wanted to outperform all others in terms of features, flexibility, and design.
Research shows that this had the deepest impact on patient outcomes from CPOE to CDSS (Clinical Decision Support Systems) embedded in the IT systems. Currently, the most noticeable healthcare IT initiative is to improve the point of care contact by reducing errors through well designed EMR applications. Examples of such applications include drug to drug interaction alerts to providers while e-prescribing and the use of customized order sets, etc. As a former student of economics, I understand the basic dimensions of business rather well. Healthcare IT is an Industry, and it is a very happening one at that. As long as there is demand for EMRs, all the vendors out there will keep trying to make their product outshine the others in a stiff “perfect competition” environment. The one thing that will really distinguish a great vendor from the rest besides the product depth is the quality of customer care extended towards the clients. The need for such distinction converts a product-based business into a service-oriented one. The vendor who has the ambition, vision, flexibility, grit, and resolve to manage a steady balance on both frontiers will ultimately rule the roost.