How to avoid the ‘new tech, old habits’ dilemma

Hospitals often implement new technologies, but remain wed to the old ways of doing things. In a recent HIMSS20 Digital presentation, two experts offered some perspective on effective change-management strategies.
By Bill Siwicki
11:18 AM
How to avoid the ‘new tech, old habits’ dilemma

Oklahoma Heart Hospital in Oklahoma City.

As the old saying goes, “There’s a right way to do things, and there’s a wrong way to do things.” When it comes to implementation best practices for implementing patient engagement technologies, two health IT experts say it’s important set it up right the first time.

Jonathan Minson, lead software architect at Oklahoma Heart Hospital and Chief Technology Officer at vendor Encardio Health, along with Kevin Montgomery, Chief Technology Officer at patient engagement company Relatient, explained why during a recent HIMSS20 Digital session.

In their presentation, Achieving Patient Engagement in a Mobile-First Market, Minson and Montgomery described how too many hospitals and health systems want to do something new with patient engagement tech – but still want to stick with old practices and processes.

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Out with the old, in with the new

“You might think this is an obvious statement, but if you’re going to take on a new project, you’re going to want to make sure you configure it right,” Montgomery said. “It’s not uncommon for us to have someone come in and say, ‘Hey, we want to move away from our current vendor, and we like your platform, and we want to install you,’ and when we get to implementation, they want to do everything the way their previous vendor was doing it.”

So Montgomery has to ask them why they are wanting to do that. The answer? This is the way we’ve always done it. So the new hospital customer told Montgomery earlier in the process it is not getting the outcomes it desired, yet it wants Montgomery and his team to do the same thing in the same way.

“You’re telling us you want to do things the way you’ve been doing it, and for some reason you think we’re going to have better success than the previous vendor by doing it the same way,” he puzzled. “We have had to talk to a lot of our customers, and some of them, we do not get a lot of pushback, but some of them we do, and they are pretty insistent on certain ways to do things. That is OK to an extent.”

The new hospital customer knows its patient demographics and the kind of data it has in its system better than Montgomery and company, he added. “So sometimes we have to make accommodations for that,” he said.

Avoiding mistakes of the past

Montgomery asked Minson what he does at the Oklahoma Heart Hospital to ensure that he does not make mistakes of the past when he is implementing any new technology.

“That’s a situation we ran into quite a bit, I would say, more so five to 10 years ago than we see now,” Minson said. “I think people now, they are thinking disruptively. How can we do this better and how can we do it differently? But I can draw an analogy to the implementation of the patient engagement tools that we implemented with you. We had to shift the paradigm.”

Oklahoma Heart Hospital had a process that was manual and centered on email, with communication going back and forth between schedulers and physicians’ staff members. Minson said they had to shatter the expectations built up around this process.

“We had to say that is the reason we are struggling,” he recalled. “And so we have to put that to the side and envision a brand new way of doing this. An integrated, in-workflow way of doing this. And I think to this point we have done that long enough to where people are now challenging us sometimes as an IT department. They will come to us and say, ‘Well, why can’t we do this? Why do we have to do it in this other way that represents some longstanding way of doing things?’“

A dilemma even the innovative can have

As an organization, Oklahoma Heart Hospital is very innovative in its mindset, Minson contended. But it definitely has run into the problem of having a new tool, but wanting to use it in an old manner, he said.

“We’ve done it this way for years, we want to take this new great solution that is going to solve all of our problems and put it into a tiny little box – and of course, if you do that, you are going to end up with the same problems,” Minson observed. “So it’s a mindset shift. It’s a cultural shift. It’s about getting everyone to realize that you can be an innovator. You can present your ideas and we can collaborate together.”

Bringing everyone to the table so that everyone feels like a contributor and a stakeholder in a new technology implementation is key to solving this dilemma, Minson concluded. “We have found, organizationally, that when you do that, you get the best ideas and you get past this dilemma.”

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: bill.siwicki@himssmedia.com
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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