Every year, the biggest ideas in health care are presented at the Mayo Clinic’s Transform conference in Rochester, Minnesota. I was there this year to present a pre-conference workshop with a Continuum colleague on everyday creativity, and another pair of Continuum designers gave a main-stage talk entitled, “Patient Centricity: A design identity crisis.” Also on the lineup were John Hockenberry and Roger Martin, bigwigs from J+J and GE Healthcare, and practitioners from the top-tier design and innovation firms. Many cutting-edge ideas were presented, along with some spirited debate on the hot topics of delivering care and the role of technology.
Here are my top five conference takeaways on the future design of health care.
Image Source: Pixabay
MEDICINE IS CHANGING RAPIDLY, AND TECHNOLOGY MUST KEEP UP
It’s often said that humans can’t keep up with technology. To a certain extent, that’s true. Generations of technology happen much more frequently than generations of people. However, there is a counterintuitive corollary to that, which is that medicine is moving so fast that the IT systems that support it aren’t flexible enough to adapt.
In some cases, it can take almost a year for an IT provider to update a system in response to an advance in medicine. By that time, the state of the art has advanced again, leaving some systems in a perpetual state of slight obsolescence. The upshot from the design perspective is that you can’t design software based on the assumption that medicine is static. The practice of medicine changes constantly, and your product will have to change as well.
YOU CAN’T EXPECT TECHNOLOGY TO FIX ALL OF OUR PROBLEMS
You have to take into account all of the ways that people are going to screw it up. Electronic Medical Records, Clinical Decision Support systems, IBM’s Watson, and other technologies are fantastic innovations, but they all have the common disadvantage/advantage of having to interact with people.
As such, they have to be designed to leverage the things humans rule at (abductive reasoning, visuo-spatial memory, decision-making), while taking into account the things people suck at (free recall, parallel processing, working memory). It’s not a new message, but clearly it still needs to be beaten into our heads: Technology is necessary but not sufficient. It is only one aspect of a complex problem that is fundamentally a human one.
Speaking of humans making mistakes all the time, I was surprised to hear that…
IT MIGHT BE MORE DANGEROUS NOT TO GOOGLE YOUR CONDITION
I can only imagine how often modern physicians must roll their eyes at patients who, thanks to the Internet, know just enough to be dangerous. However, it came up in Dave deBronkart’s (a.k.a. ePatient Dave) talk that it might be more dangerous not to Google your condition than it is essentially to practice medicine on yourself. This was attributed to the usefulness of self-started patient communities that provide invaluable insight into what questions to ask, treatments to seek out, and condition-specific precautions to take. Dave talked about a recent study in which researchers expected to find scores of case studies of people dying because they relied on faulty health information on the web but actually found zero.