To achieve great healthcare outcomes using data, culture is more important than technology

As a Silicon Valley-based company that builds software to simplify the lives of those who provide our healthcare, we are always interested in learning how we can use the latest and greatest in technology to enhance healthcare delivery. From machine learning to artificial intelligence to real time prescriptive analytics, our hope is to attract the brightest minds and focus their energy and passion towards enhancing the lives of our providers and patients.

 “Culture can become a ‘secret weapon’ that makes extraordinary things happen”                                                                                                                                       – Jon Katzenbach.

But the truth behind achieving great outcomes in safety or efficiency is that we spend far more time thinking about culture than we do on any specific aspect of our technology.  As we partner with many leading hospitals and health systems around the country, our focus is more on understanding how great data-driven cultures evolve during a time of incredible change.

For perspective, if you step out of healthcare, an interesting example to understand the impact of culture and performance is to compare your taxi cab experience. If you can recall the last time you took a local taxi at the airport, do you remember if your driver used Google Maps or Waze for navigation? And then compare it to modern ride sharing companies such as Lyft or Uber and how often their drivers use Google Maps or Waze (hint: it’s 100%). One is a culture that expects their experts (e.g. taxi drivers) to “do the right thing” and the other relies on a real time data-driven approach.

In healthcare, cultural adoption of new technology has become even more difficult due to the role of the EMR in recent history. EMR adoption and initiatives such as “meaningful use” have transformed a generation of clinicians to become more pessimistic about the impact of technology on their workflow and thus by extension their quality of life at work. Healthcare technology companies that can go beyond the norms and have an in-depth appreciation for the burden on the frontline today can drive a faster adoption of their technology into the provider’s culture. At the same time, as we advance our sophistication in areas such as analytics in healthcare, hospitals and health systems need to be much more sensitive to cultural transformation as they continue to adopt new tools and platform to enhance outcomes and experience.

As Randy Bean in his Harvard Business Review article titled “Just Using Big Data Isn’t Enough Anymore” says: “When I began advising Fortune 1000 firms on data and analytics strategies nearly two decades ago, I assumed that 95% of what was needed would be technical advice. The reality has been the opposite. The vast majority of the challenges companies struggle as they operationalize Big Data are related to people, not technology.”


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