Can something as mundane as an electronic medical record (EMR) be glamorous or glitzy? Can it match the pizzazz of a new smart phone or the graceful lines of a modern sports car? Probably not. A swirling array of regulations such as HITECH, ARRA, meaningful use and HIPAA compliance are masters that vendors must play to before any customer concern or complaint.
Clayton Christensen, the renowned author of innovation, concludes that innovation is possible in any kind of business or service. In the EMR arena, I fear that few, if any, vendors can devote sufficient resources to forge a wholly innovative product and still attend to the installed base of users who seek stability rather than innovation. Established users want their installed software to last ten years or more. That means that fixing problems with current software is more important to them than buying a wholly innovative product.
Additionally, EMR vendors must be careful be able to launch an innovative product quickly and achieve a sustainable market share in a relatively brief time span of six months. After six months, competitors will adapt their own products to appear to match an innovative one. They must be able to capture the market quickly or risk being copied by competitors who can avoid the pitfalls of an innovator. New products also have returns on investment and too new a product makes such predictions difficult. The uncertain, for some, is too great a risk to bear.
Lastly, innovative products require early adopters, and by their conservative nature, health care customers are risk averse with long sales cycles and many levels to their approval process. Innovators, unlike established vendors, may not have sufficient capital to wait out an early adoption phase before more widespread adoption occurs.
In conclusion, there are obstacles to innovative EMR products. Key, though, will be its ability to solve a problem in a less expensive or simpler manner. So easy, in fact, that it is preferred over more expensive products. in Christensen’s terms it is disruptive. Its solution must not be perfect in the customer’s eyes, but “good enough” because it is the lack of one-to-one mapping onto current problems that can permits users to dream of their use in new different ways.
1. Christensen, Clayton M. 1997 The innovator’s dilemma : when new technologies cause great firms to fail / Clayton M. Christensen Harvard Business School Press, Boston, Mass.
2. Klepper, Steven (1996) Entry, Exit, Growth, and Innovation over the Product Life Cycle. The American Economic Review 86 (3) (Jun., 1996), pp. 562-583