U.S. Healthcare: No Half Measures

If the U.S. healthcare industry is ever going to be able to deliver higher-quality care at affordable costs, technology adoption at a national scale is essential. There can be no half measures, and no facet of the healthcare industry can be excluded. If this transition does not occur and we remain a paper-based industry, we risk fatally wounding the U.S. economy.

The October 1 launch of national health insurance exchanges (HIEs) was a major step in the right direction. A high-profile feature of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), these HIEs now enable uninsured and underinsured consumers to search out new healthcare coverage options online. Initially, there were some technology glitches as millions of Americans began to access these open enrollment portals. Websites crashed, computer screens froze and Americans across the country wondered if this was a sign that the ACA is doomed to fail.

But these glitches should have been expected. This not the first instance where a major new technology initiative has struggled at its launch. In fact, I am not surprised that the systems had some preliminary hiccups.

The U.S. experienced similar issues when ATMs were first introduced, but now many of us exclusively bank at an automated machine. The same is true for online shopping, tax filings and dozens of other technologies that have gained tremendous efficiencies—and ubiquitous consumer trust—in the past several years. In similar fashion, the design, usability and capabilities of HIEs will inevitably improve…and it will help to transform the industry.

However, efforts should be focused to improve the system as quickly as possible to avoid creating a sense of distrust and frustration amongst consumers. While initial, minor glitches can be tolerated, the inability to quickly resolve them severely inhibits the progress of these HIEs and other technology innovations necessary to move our healthcare system forward.  If consumers, healthcare providers and other key stakeholders resist new technology, the industry will remain stuck in the digital Dark Ages.

Conversely, through an industry-wide commitment of investment and other resources, we can achieve the wholesale improvements necessary to elevate healthcare to the centerpiece of a thriving economy.