As many Apple fan boys (or fan girls) waited with baited breath outside of Apple stores last Friday (or paid someone to stand in line for them) in an attempt to walk out with the new iPhone 5, I used my dinosaur of an iPhone 3 to read tweets about their travails - bad weather, unscrupulous line-cutters, unexpected labor pains ... (Those last two are pure conjecture, by the way.)
While I'm sure the new model is wonderful, I'd happily settle for the days before my 3G was stolen. I even made a last-ditch effort a few months ago to revive my 3 from its near-death-like state of slow and clunky, and went to the Apple store. "I realize this used to be awesome," I told the genius assigned to me. He nodded in sympathy, told me no life-saving treatment could be prescribed, and launched into a sales pitch for the iPhone 4 - out of my price range thanks to the prohibitive pre-upgrade fees my wireless carrier so kindly offers.
There seem to be parallels to the purchasing options many providers feel when it comes to purchasing new healthcare IT solutions. Should they opt for the latest version because it's the newest, or save a few dollars by purchasing an older iteration that meets their needs nicely but may not have as many bells and whistles? It's an interesting conundrum, because I'm sure providers not only want to operate within their budgets, but they also want to plan for the future. Perhaps newer health technologies coming down the line might be better enabled if they go ahead and purchase that newest EMR model.
HealthcareITNews.com ran a fun slideshow a few weeks ago briefly detailing the history of the iPhone. I'd love to see something similar as it relates to EMRs. How different is a vendor's newest version from its oldest? Will the newer models better enable providers to adopt/integrate the latest and greatest analytics and reporting tools, patient portals or revenue cycle management?
Or have vendors taken to releasing newer models just for marketing purposes? As one reviewer describes it, the innovativeness of the iPhone 5 parallels what might also be happening in healthcare IT:
"The prevailing opinion after the iPhone 5 announcement is that it's boring, but still pretty great. The hardware is without a doubt impressive from a technical and engineering standpoint, but iterative on previous designs. The software is as competent as we've come to expect from Apple. Together they make for a product that's not surprising - and therefore a little boring."
I'm hoping that the healthcare IT industry learn from Apple's example, and instead strive to continue to offer game-changing, innovative technologies. Though products may have the same name, it is essential that successive models and upgrades offer innovations that are conducive to providers' workflows while immediately enabling better patient outcomes. New product for new product's sake won't get us anywhere at the end of the day.