Wednesday, February 23, 2011

People over technology

I just returned from the largest healthcare technology conference in the world, HIMSS 2011. There are hundreds of vendor booths ranging from a 10 foot table to city block sized two story complexes. It seemed everywhere I turned I was told that if only my doctor had an iPhone or tablet, patients would be healed faster, medical mistakes would plummet, and hospitals would recoup more money.

There was so much technology that I found myself forgetting a basic fact. Healthcare is about healing people. And those that do the healing are people.

I didn’t recognize how little I thought about patients until I put my girls to bed tonight and began reflecting on the show. Then it hit me.

Every good and rewarding memory from the show involved people, not technology. It was the joy of being greeted with genuine fondness by former executive leaders. It was the smiles and embraces I received from past colleagues. And it was the tears when I ran into a prior customer as she turned a corner and I received the biggest hug of the entire event – and her kind and exaggerated words of thanks for the years of being a trusted partner to her organization.

We are here to apply technology so our customer’s lives may be people-centered, not gadget centered.

Regardless of your industry, remember that there is a person on the other end of your solution. Start with them and let their needs, their goals, and their hopes drive you – not the technology.

One final story.

I visited a hospice customer several years ago. After a day of IT, finance, and CIO type discussions, they asked if I’d like to tour their inpatient hospice unit. If you aren’t familiar an inpatient hospice unit, it is a place where people come to spend their last days. The average stay is measured in days, not weeks.

It was sobering to be shown a typical patient room. By itself, that would have altered my view of my product and my role in leading the team developing it.
Then I saw the computer screens at the nursing stations with my application running. At that point I could trace a path to the choices I made daily directly to the patients who were in this unit dying. It ceased to be about technology. It became a quest to build something that would allow my users (nurses) to do their job better (help people die with dignity).

Don’t lead with technology. Listen, observe, and seek to understand. Next time you find yourself getting enamored with new technology, don’t forget to ask yourself what difference it is going to make in the lives of your users.

1 comment:

Alan D Huffman said...

My experiences in life and at Vanguard have led to similar conclusions. While technology may be a passion for us, it remains a tool for our users -- one that best serves by transparently leading to the solution.
often the best solution is to get out of the way so that people can connect on deeper, more meaningful levels. Sometimes that means giving them more time, other times augmenting (supplementing) their memory, or bringing their attention to the most salient information.
If we enrich human interactions, we succeed.