September 1, 2021
Reduced to the Essentials – AI/ML Can Wait
A Reflection On HIMSS and Healthcare IT In 2021
We have shared a lot of stories over the last year about the sometimes clever, often-times heroic adaptations Healthcare IT teams at provider organizations have made in the midst of the ongoing pandemic. Under the surface, however, a “new reality” has set in and left a last impact. At large and small hospitals alike, IT teams have endured chronic staffing challenges, escalating security challenges, and rising complexity in maintaining the day-to-day cadence of IT operations. I am not exaggerating when I say that we at CloudWave can hear it in your voices, see it in your faces, and feel it viscerally in your delivery when we discuss the projects we are working on together with you.
I opined after the 2019 HIMSS that maybe the industry had gotten “too big to succeed”. So many crowds, so many self-serving “fluff” keynotes, so little meaningful conversation. Too many big ideas, too few working implementations. Don’t get me wrong, I am decidedly pro-innovation, but pumping up what are little more than theoretical constructs to drive booth sales and conference attendance live out at the edge of what I consider a safe moral framework applied to our working lives. Technology and Process either get in the way of healthcare, or smart people work together to get them out of the way. Rapid, unthinking adoption often results in the former, while carefully considered testing and implementation often achieve the latter.
The COVID pandemic has forced us to focus on what is essential in IT – uptime, application performance, responsive user support, protection across the entire scope of IT from access security to data recovery, and also, unsurprisingly on the never-ending mission of getting the network – whether its wireless, wired, metro, or local to stop being a constraint so we can tele-work, tele-health, tele-stream, and maybe after a long day of Zoom, WebEx, and teams meetings, tele-scream!
While we were all busy keeping our users happy, we were reminded that AI/ML algorithms were only as good as the worst coder and the worst SME who trained them. We observed without surprise that interoperability measures only start getting interesting when someone else funds them. We watched the entire industry dance like a cow wrangler at gunpoint at the prospect of publishing prices. We had just finished serious work across the industry to reduce the IT burden on physicians when COVID gave them a second punch.
Trying times remind us of what is actually essential. Using our tools and skills to take care of the people who take care of us. Repeatedly doing the mundane IT and Security Ops things that keep healthcare data as safe and as invisible as possible. A well-tended garden allows new plants to thrive. AI/ML will have its critical moment of adoption in the industry, and it may well launch a new era of IT-assisted care, but it will not bolt easily onto a closed, insecure environment. Tending to the little things makes the big things work.
Jim Fitzgerald is Chief Strategy Officer at CloudWave.