At a recent event introducing a new vendor to the Canadian eHealth market, thought leaders including Frank McKenna (former NB premier) and Wayne Gudbranson (Branham Group Inc. President) suggested that “Cultural resistance – not the least from healthcare workers – and a huge shortfall of public funds continue to be major obstacles to the widespread adoption of e-health programs in North America.” (see http://www.itbusiness.ca/it/client/en/home/News.asp?sub=true&id=52769 for coverage of the event). While I agree that “cultural resistance” is an issue, I am not sure that we fully understand why this resistance exists. General trends in technology adoption suggest that, on the whole, people are integrating technology into their everyday lives, including those in the age demographic (45+ years old) frequently cited by industry pundits as most resistant to change. Indeed, an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
states that, according to Comscore (an online audience measuring company , “nearly a third of Facebook users are between the ages of 35 and 54“. Why are these people willing to try new online services yet are seemingly resistant to trying new eHealth applications. I suggest that we (the eHealth industry) are not doing a good enough job of answering the question “What’s in it for me”? Having witnessed many large enterprise IT projects fail because they did not adequately address this question, I believe that we need to take more of a Product Management approach to developing and deploying eHealth applications that starts with a better understanding of what the target market needs. We need to treat the end users more like customers who can make choices and sell them on the benefits that they personally can achieve.
I don’t think the challenge of rolling out new systems in the health sector is fundamentally different from doing so in other industries. Adoption of new applications and technologies is a challenge in any industry, a challenge that savvy CIOs and other technology leaders are learning to address. Indeed,I suggest that one of the attributes of successful CIOs is the ability to understand the business in which they operate and the needs of the people on the front line of these businesses. I have often thought that more attempts need to be made to share lessons learned from other industries with those in the health sector seeking to deploy new eHealth applications. Perhaps a new stream at the annual eHealth conference is needed to foster this type of inter-industry sharing of lessons learned and best practices? Or, perhaps, a them for the annual fall COACH education forum?