Infrastructure: Who cares? It’s just plumbing. One type of pipe is the same as another. Right?
Plumbing, or infrastructure, is unique in what it delivers. Without good, solid plumbing, civilization would not be in its current livable state. Without good, well thought-out transportation systems, the trading of goods & services would not be as efficient as it is today. Without cellular telephone technology, we would not be able to pull up an app and find the right directions.
Infrastructure enables a lifestyle, a way to enhance life, and a platform on which to build. It is not just a commodity, but an enabler. Having the right, robust foundation is essential, especially in health care.
In today’s U.S. health care system, a large sum of money is being spent to bring hospitals and physician practices into the digital age. We can debate whether or not the Federal government should be involved in health IT, but there is little doubt about the value of getting electronic health records and the electronic exchange of patient data in place. There are strong efficiency and quality elements to have a digital, electronic health care system.
Now, you may be thinking, “If this post is about infrastructure, just let me out now!”
It is unfortunate that we discount the importance of infrastructure in enabling visions. My argument is that a vision cannot be realized without infrastructure. For example, consider the following scenarios:
- Envision walking into a doctor’s office, checking in through a kiosk, and then, at the end of our visit, receiving an electronic summary of the results.
- Imagine going to the lab or imaging center, and when we check in, they already have all of our pertinent information.
- Soon after the results are complete, our physician receives an electronic copy to store in our record and then sends on the information to us.
- Our visions are directly related to our user experience:
- No paperwork handed to us on a clipboard. Maybe it is all on an iPad® instead.
- A more cost-effective health care delivery system coupled with higher quality patient care.
- An electronic network and digital records in health care, just as we experience in the financial management.
Fortunately, this vision is actionable and doable. Put in poor, unreliable IT infrastructure and it will fail. Spend all your dollars on the applications, and skimp on the IT infrastructure, and it will not work, frustrating all involved. If the Twitter Fail Whale irritates you, then think about how would you feel when you arrive at your doctor’s office, and they cannot pull your record because the network is down.
Our society values the applications, the glitz. How it all happens behind-the-scenes is just ignored, which is a critical error. Without the infrastructure, many things we enjoy just become lonely islands — little interaction, low value.
- Brings to life the applications and interactions
As much of the focus is on the new vision of connected health care and new applications to digitize health care, the underlying IT infrastructure cannot be discounted. High quality health IT infrastructure is an essential part of the new formula in bringing our patient care delivery models into the modern age.
So, next time you are in your doctor’s office, ask them what type of servers, networks, and interoperability systems they are using? Tell them you know this is the true enabler of our new health care electronic system.
And, as you think about this, name one vision which has become a reality without some underlying, robust infrastructure?