I thought I wanted a Hatchimal for the holidays. Never heard of it? It’s the current hot new toy — 2016’s answer to the trendy toy craze that included Furby, Tickle Me Elmo, Beanie Babies and Cabbage Patch Kids in bygone years. Hatchimals even look a bit like Furby, but they’re more high tech: They come in a soft shell that breaks open when you begin to take care of it. They retail for $50-$60, and were smoking hot by Black Friday, at which time demand surpassed initial supply, and they were already difficult to find and with an aftermarket price of almost five times retail.
But the gift giving craze aside, the way the market is reacting to Hatchimals reminds me of how the healthcare industry is dealing with IT solutions that were designed to help them manage population health and electronic medical records (EMR) or achieve Accountable Care Organization (ACO) status. Does that comparison sound like a stretch? Consider these points of similarity:
Cost concerns: First, with Hatchimals, the manufacturers embedded technology that responds to interactions with children (or adults) who play with it, and then the toy mechanically breaks out of its shell. For such a small product, it’s a pretty smart device, and the initial cost seems reasonable. But does the toy live up to it’s promise? As with healthcare IT, sometimes you get what you pay for, and what seems like a really cool and affordable solution ends up not fulfilling the need the buyer envisioned it would.
We must find a way to meet or exceed expectations for top quality healthcare while bringing the cost down across the spectrum, whether it’s medications, instruments for feedback and/or physician care. That will require innovation. And innovation demands a comprehensive data integration and management solution.
Sharing of Information: There’s a pattern at work for parents trying to score a hot toy for the holidays. If you don’t obtain this year’s hottest item early, you would have to wait until dangerously close to the holiday and be forced to shell out double, triple or even ten times the list price just to get this coveted item for your child (or yourself). Or worse yet, you might come up empty handed and miss out on the trend all together.
At first, it seemed like the Hatchimals folks were going to break this pattern. The manufacturer was receiving near-real time information about the status of the Hatchimals in stores (and online) and is moving as fast as possible to manufacture more and move them to the right places for additional sales. In addition to receiving sales data, the manufacturer is also syndicating information to the public showing when and where the toys will be available. However, despite these good intentions, demand has overwhelmed supply, leaving frustrated would-be purchasers without a toy under the tree.
In healthcare, there has been a similar effort to keep up — followed by similar disappointments. We’ve made amazing progress in capturing patient information electronically, but we’re nowhere near where we need to be in sharing it. According to an ONC report issued in September, hospitals have made great progress in just the past two years in making more comprehensive data available to patients, but more than 30% still don’t have the ability to allow patients to view their information, download it and/or share it. The “shine” for hospitals also goes down to very low percentages when looking at physician practices and the sharing of data.
After a recent trip to the dermatologist, I asked the doctor’s staff to post my records to their portal, and they said they couldn’t do that. I then asked them to message the records to me within their portal, and they said they couldn’t do that either. I ended up writing the doctor a printed letter of consent and mailing it to the doctor’s staff so they could physically mail me a paper copy of my record. Like Hatchimals, the intention is good, and some of the tools are in place. But we’re still falling short on execution.
Acting with urgency: With Christmas and other holidays rapidly approaching, moms and dads are acting with urgency to solve the problem of getting Hatchimals for their kids. Many may have to wait until after the holidays since supply has outstripped demand. Healthcare administrators who hoped their EMR, ACO or population health management system would deliver the goods are in a similar situation.
Why can’t healthcare practitioners and organizations move faster? We need to get rid of the barriers that are keeping our industry from sharing this precious data and getting critical treatment or patient data when it’s needed. Examples include: data blocking (were EMR/EHR vendors make it either difficult and/or expensive to get data out of their systems) and reluctance by practitioners to share their patients’ data due to liability concerns or because they are simply overwhelmed with all the other tasks associated with quality reporting and reimbursement as they change from fee-for-service to value-based service. Once again, the demand for the product is there, but there are bottlenecks in supply.
In 2017, let’s put the need to engage patients and interact with them electronically at the top of the list. Let’s make the implementation, interoperability and sharing of patient information our top priority. If your organization is still waiting for the insights you need for innovation like an anxious parent waiting for a delayed shipment of Hatchimals, why not — which keeps on giving all year long? By moving toward a data-inspired future, you’ll be hatching something great.
Have a happy holiday season and a safe and Happy New Year!
Until next year,