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Calling All Innovators in Health Informatics!

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
written by James Langabeer, II, PhD, MBA, FHIMSS

Healthcare, as an industry, has a long way to go to achieve the cost-efficiency and quality that we all strive for.

As consumers/patients, we see constant duplication of effort – we get the same questions from multiple providers, we fill out the same forms repeatedly, and we find little sharing of information between providers.

As providers and administrators, we are equally frustrated with the lack of clear, actionable data that can help us improve operations. We know we need better solutions.

Turning to Informatics

It’s time for informaticists to step up and offer those solutions. We need innovators – people that see the needs, and the niches in the operations of clinics and hospitals, and can design solutions to fix these gaps.

It won’t be easy, since clinical and business processes in healthcare are not well-integrated currently. If they were, a simple, well-functioning Electronic Health Record (EHR) would be all we would need to streamline how we acquire, transform, and produce outputs in the industry. But, this lack of integration is precisely what creates obvious opportunities for informatics entrepreneurs.

Students and alumni of the UT School of Biomedical Informatics—we need you all to become the next wave of problem-solvers.

The Role of Informaticists

Informaticists have the understanding of underlying data availability and structures, models, data visualization, and technology. Informaticists can use process improvement tools to identify problems, and then design transformational information solutions.

From interoperability, to patient scheduling, to patient and resource tracking, to social media, to the healthcare supply chain, the field is wide open. Find an area where you understand the issues and gaps, work with the providers in that area to clearly translate that into requirements, and start work on designing simple solutions that can attack those areas.

Identifying Problems - and Solutions

Don’t naively go after the solution blindly. Make sure you know which vendors already are in that space, why they do (or don’t) have traction, what gaps exist in their infrastructure or functionality, and what that might mean for your concept.

A short, concise business plan that lays out the following is a good first step:

  • What “need” am I really serving? What gaps exist?
  • What’s the source of my innovation?
  • What’s the competitive advantage? What is unique about this?
  • Which competitors already exist and what is missing in their products?
  • Where can you obtain funding for this type of solution?
  • Which provider might work with me to pilot and test a solution?

Only once you have answered the above questions should you begin coding and developing a product requirements plan.

If you are interested in learning more, feel free to contact me – or take my class this upcoming semester. I would love to see our SBMI grads better positioned to lead the healthcare industry’s IT transformation!

Dr. James Langabeer

Dr. James Langabeer, II, has a dual appointment with SBMI and UTHealth Medical School’s Department of Emergency Medicine. His research interests are in clinical systems of care, cardiovascular quality and analytics, and health information exchange with a passion for the intersection of health informatics, decision sciences and medicine. His career has involved hospital executive administration, technology startups and commercialization, management consulting, and health care research and teaching.