Health Experiences
Peter Heywood wrote this on April 14, 2014 / no comments

RobotJust over five years ago, Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School professor and innovation guru, published a book on healthcare and change called “The Innovator’s Prescription.” Based on my conversations with many, many people in healthcare, it was widely read but with the continuing dialogue about the role of data, evidence-based AI systems and the dehumanization of healthcare through computers, you wonder how much the book’s lessons were absorbed.

Christensen made his name with the publication in 1997 of the Innovator’s Dilemma, where he introduced the concept of ‘disruptive innovation.” With this, he described how even the best run companies could be (and have been) sideswiped) by innovations that come out of left field, change the rules and eat the incumbent’s lunch. All interesting, well-researched and arguably a lot like so many other books on management that have appeared since Tom Peters and Jim Collins  blew open this field 25 years ago (not to forget the godfather of such books, Peter Drucker). Christensen and his team followed this with other titles, such as the Innovator’s Solution, the Innovator’s DNA and others, all reasonably interesting but that felt a little bit like they were over-mining this vein.

Then came The Innovator’s Prescription.

Now, maybe it’s because I spend too much time in healthcare, but I found the book irresistible. Unusually, I read it cover-to-cover twice, and (having read the original) the observations in The Innovator’s Prescription seemed so much more apt when focused on healthcare examples. In particular, he spends considerable time on the need for each “tier’ of healthcare expertise (techs, nurses, doctors etc) to continue to add value to its work and rise up “the value chain” as technology disrupts jobs and assumes the work in the rote and repeatable processes. He notes that equivalent changes have radically altered roles in other sectors and healthcare is ripe for such disruption. Well worth reading.

I thought of it when reading a terrific post (http://qz.com/193919/most-of-what-your-doctor-does-a-robot-can-do-better/ from a young MD resident and inventor named Gina Siddiqui (@gina_wrote).

Straight out of Christensen, she notes: “My medical education focuses on recognizing pathologies under tight deadlines: efficiency and specialized pattern recognition. I’m hard pressed to make a case for my edge over a robot in these domains. And if I have no edge, I would be doing my patients a disservice to guard my job.”

Exactly. But rather than moaning about the loss of humanity in healthcare, about the wise doctor’s insights being over-run by impersonal, evidence based protocols, about doctors becoming nothing more than algorithm jockeys, she offers a much more optimistic challenge to providers.

As Gina Siddiqui again notes “After the Deep Blue supercomputer beat the world champion Garry Kasparov in 1997, something interesting happened. Humans didn’t stop playing chess. Instead, “advanced chess” was born, whereby humans and computers teamed up. Some of those teams won against the otherwise unbeatable supercomputers.”

Technology is not going away. The amassing of Big Data and evidence-based insights is not going away. And the genial bedside doctor disappeared a long time ago, as much as people pull this image out when resisting the onset of technology actually providing care. The healthcare system needs more people like Ms Siddiqui who embrace technology not because of its functionality (something that let’s me do my job faster), but because – as Christensen said – they see the means to team up with IT to change the rules (something that let’s me reinvent my job) and become better, more human providers, not the robots the fear mongers predict.

 

Peter Heywood wrote this on April 14, 2014 / no comments

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