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By Monica E. Oss

Greetings from Philadelphia, where we closed The 2018 OPEN MINDS Technology and Informatics Institute this afternoon with my keynote presentation, How & When New Technology Will Drive Disruption & Create New Strategic Advantage. The focus of my remarks? Trying to speed up the technology adoption curve in the health and human service field so existing organizations have a chance to beat their new disruptive competition.

The reason for the need for speed is a simple one. There is lots of new science and emerging technologies out there. But, for the first time, those technologies are moving from small pilot tests to system wide scale. The presentation by our opening keynote speaker, Sunil Budhrani, M.D., MPH, MBA, Chief Medical Officer & Chief Medical Informatics Officer of Innovation Health, Technology From The Health Plan Perspective: Innovation Health’s Implications In Technology On Healthcare, provided a great illustration of a health insurer/health system collaboration that is making the promise of new technology a reality. In this presentation, he discussed four of the new technologies that are now up and running in the Innovation Health system—from an online behavioral health service delivery platform to genetic profiling to a telemedicine program for chronic diseases.

As tech-informed and tech-enabled services become the norm, expectations of consumers and health plans will change. And the competitive advantage-referrals and market share, margin, sustainability—will go to the provider organizations who can keep up. That’s where speed in technology adoption comes in. But the reason for the 15- to 20-year science-to-service lag in the field is not a simple one. To speed technology adoption, I think some specific changes by both the technology companies and the health and human service organizations are needed.

On the technology company side, a recent headline in Fast Company says it all: Why Do Digital Health Startups Keep Failing?. The key issue—many new technologies are designed by people without the benefit of an in-depth understanding of the complexity of the health and human service system. Multiple stakeholders with varying financial interests and objectives are the rule and not the exception. To develop a technology solution that has the potential to go to scale, the developers need to understand the value to every stakeholder; estimate the financial impact of broad scale adoption of the technology solution; and to develop implementation/operations processes that are both user-friendly and compatible with standard operating systems.

For health and human service organizations, developing a nimble but structured process for new technology selection and implementation is key. There are a few elements to this competency. First, a platform of metrics-based performance measurement is essential. If an executive team can’t measure organizational performance and identify performance problems, then it is difficult to prioritize technology investments and measure their ROI. In addition, many health and human service organizations need to develop best practices for technology investment, selection, implementation, and on-going management.

I think this mismatch of technology company and provider organization competencies is the reason, so few technology applications have moved from pilot projects to scale in traditional health and human service organizations. Without a change in approach, both run the risk of being displaced by competitors who have figured out the issues of operationalization and scale to improve performance. For most health and human service organizations, technology is integral to strategic success. For most digital health companies, the inability to deliver on the promises of performance improvement at the system level is integral to strategic success. Both have much to gain from successful partnerships.

What are some of the new technology developments in health and human services that are shaping the strategic landscape? Check out our recent coverage in the OPEN MINDS Circle Library:

For more on how tech is making changes in the health and human services space, don’t miss our continued coverage of The 2018 OPEN MINDS Technology & Informatics Institute in the coming weeks. In the meantime, for our coverage of the event, you can check out @openmindscircle on Twitter, and follow us on Facebook for archived video coverage.

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