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Podcast: Who Else Hates the Health IT Hype?


Data Book discusses how leaders can ignore noise and embrace effective healthcare technology.

It’s an incredible time to be in the world of health IT. Innovators from inside and outside healthcare are developing solutions that may well change the lives of our clinicians, patients and health systems. Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), mobile health apps and virtual care are forging new paths to more effective treatments, greater efficiencies and expanded access. And we’re even making progress toward interoperability. But still, hype pervades health IT.

This week on Data Book, we explore this problem and how it harms clinical and enterprise progress. We also look at the human side of the tech equation — is an innovation worth anything if it flails in the adoption and scaling stages? We examine marketing’s role in perpetuating premature, if not unrealistic, hype. Finally, we discuss ways to see through the noise.

What it all comes down to is a question of value, as displayed in last month’s JAMA commentary by Ezekiel Emanuel, M.D., Ph.D., and Robert Wachter, M.D. In the piece, they explore whether AI’s value will live up to all the cheerleading surrounding the technology. And they conclude that behavior change is the key piece. AI’s value lies in its ability to influence decision-making, they argue. But if physicians and other clinicians decline to embrace AI in their work, what good is it?

Clinical validation is, of course, necessary. But the story doesn’t end there. Adoption, implementation and scalability are also critical. If a health IT solution lacks the potential to meet these challenges, it might not be a solution at all.

Now, let’s pivot to marketing. (It should go without saying, but full disclosure: We are in the health IT marketing business.) Glitzy, vague, overly confident marketing campaigns provide the fuel that powers the health IT hype train. Speaking to a reporter about IBM Watson Health last year, Wachter underscored this problem when he said, “They came in with marketing first, product second, and everybody got excited.” And when the algorithms entered health systems, he said, adding to a body of skeptical reporting, results proved underwhelming.

We could all do better to adopt more restraint. Broadly, health IT’s potential is almost unfathomable, immeasurable. It could bring profound change to our healthcare system. We are, however, only in the early stages of this new era. Let’s not lose sight of the important thing — value, in terms of quality care and stronger efficiencies — because we’re blinded by the bright, shiny things.

By the way, this is the final episode of Data Book’s third season. We’ll return in about a month with new episodes featuring great stories and even better expert guests. Until then, thanks for listening.

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