Impediments to Progress

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 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?


3 responses to “Impediments to Progress

  1. Good question Mike. I have always felt that communication of the “What’s in it for me?” message is sorely lacking in the Canadian market. There are dozens of ways an eHealth project can go off the rails, but getting an understandable, accurate and timely communication strategy with stakeholders always seems to get the short end of the stick. I can think of no faster way to slow adoption amongst a stakeholder like a doctor if you cannot explain why they should care about the new Lab system will be of interest to them. My own experience suggests a common one size fits all communication strategy is the most common mistake. You cannot engage stakeholders as diverse as lab techs, doctors, nurses, admin staff and others with a generic series of messages that does not address their particular concerns.

    Mike, not a bad idea on the industry sharing lessons learned concept. I think the challenge will be to get the appropriate peers to participate. There is no faster way to lose an audience if they cannot identify with the speaker.


  2. What industries do you think have valuable lessons to share? What aspects of their business to you think are relevant and applicable to the health sector?


  3. From my own experience, I would focus on industries that have done it well, as well as on those who have failed badly. I think there is equal value in lessons learned good and bad. Any Physician/CIO worth their salt will want to know both sides of the equation.

    On the positive side I have always been amazed at what the banks and airlines have been able to do. Make the customer move their transactions online, cut costs and thank the company for the “improved service”. Everyone wins.

    On the negative side I would go back in time (circa 2000) and look at my own experience in watching the auto industry mess up badly with their online marketplace Covisint. To the suppliers of GM, Chrysler and Ford it appeared that Covisint (an online marketplace for buying from suppliers) was an effort to squeeze them on price. There was no value add for the suppliers to participate, only downside. What I found interesting is that the GM, Chrysler and Ford made some half-hearted attempts to “prove” the value to the suppliers, but they had nothing but weak arguments. Goes to show that you really need to consider the “What is in it for me?” argument for all participants BEFORE launching something.

    What about your own experiences Mike?


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