Perhaps it’s the glitz and glam of Las Vegas that’s inspiring this, but I wanted to take an opportunity to espouse the notion of reinforcing an emerging direction for healthcare IT—keeping that tech simple and focused.

Perhaps it’s HIMSS overload, but the stories of technology that have most impacted me over the last couple days are the ones that put the human factor at the very center of design and purpose.

There are hundreds of booths at the show, many demonstrating technology that I’d need more than a day to understand, or begin to understand. But if it’s just fancy bells and whistles that fail the test of the human interface, it risks being wasted effort. I’ve covered HIMSS conferences for a couple decades, and over that time, I’ve seen the industry make great progress in aiming to use information technology to meet the most basic of needs.

IT in this industry often deals with the most difficult of purposes—treating the illnesses that afflict humans. Making treatment decisions aren’t easy, and care delivery has evolved into a complex, often disjointed process. In this challenging chaos, IT needs to answer some truly basic questions.

Does it make the clinician’s life easier, not harder? Does the interface invite use and not discourage interaction? Does patient care benefit and improve? Does information flow in a useful, automatic and sensible way? Is care continuity aided throughout all the places a patient receives care? Is care more effective and less expensive?

And finally, how simply is that accomplished?

Amazingly, I wrote those words just before an interview with Judy Faulkner, CEO of Epic. During our discussion, those are some of the very goals that her company is continuing to address as they seek to make software better for providers to use. And in other meetings, I heard of similar initiatives.

It’s the latest challenge for the industry—doing clinically essential tasks in an elegant, inviting way. Improving the user experience involves more than the technical interface, but the whole continuum, from training, to making improvements based off user feedback, to delivering value, whether that be reductions in mundane tasks to improvements in care and outcomes.

In recent years, our smartphones have raised the bar—or perhaps, more accurately, have lowered the level for which we will accept complicated, difficult to use technology. That will become the goal for IT in healthcare, whether used by a clinician or the consumer.

At one impressive demo at HIMSS, I saw the potential use for a technology that uses a virtual assistant to take notes, provide clinical decision support, helps clinicians prescribe medical treatment and facilitates care handoffs between clinicians or from one facility to another, all accomplished with just the clinician’s voice.

It was very easy, but perhaps the most moving part was that the demo involved a treatment scenario of a young asthma patient whose condition was worsening. That’s what hit home—usable technology put to work to ensure prompt, effective care for a patient whose life depends on it.

With that goal, let’s anticipate future development of technology that’s both wonderfully complex and incredibly simple to use.

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