I came across a great blog post today about teamwork (Teamwork Never Fails, Individuals Fail Teamwork) and it really got me thinking.
I’m a big fan of the saying that the people working together at a company are more of a team than a family - we’re in this to win and I believe it’s critical to be very self-aware and constantly asking yourself:
- Am I improving every day?
- Am I learning? Am I teaching?
- Am I growing and helping my team work better, faster and smarter?
- Do I give my best effort every day - is that effort enough?
- Am I proactively solving problems around me that can help the team move faster?
- Do I ask for feedback?
- Am I acting on that feedback?
I think we all owe it to ourselves to be constantly searching inside and ensuring we’re being the best we can be - the reality is that the more we work at that question - the more we effect not only our own lives, but the lives of people around us.
It feels like the healthcare system has a reached a level of complexity bordering on ridiculous these days. As a society, it’s amazing to see how we’ve executed a stunning and valuable experience when it comes to enjoying our music, connecting with friends and relatives and even ordering shoes online (see Apple, Facebook and Zappos, respectively). When it comes to our health, however, the experience is antiquated and painfully analog.
To put it bluntly, the state of the industry is embarrassing. Physicians are haunted by failed system implementations, and have grown rather apathetic after becoming accustomed to mediocre administrative and billing solutions. Some of the systems deployed in medical practices today were built decades ago, but even more “modern” solutions are bereft of innovation, simply expanding upon their predecessors’ obsolete models.
Plus, the amount of administrative waste surrounding a single physician-patient encounter is dizzying. By the time a patient makes it into the examination room, they’ve triggered 20 or more tasks, many of them manual, and sometimes across myriad business entities. I don’t think there is any one particular group to blame for getting us here, but I believe healthcare IT can be held accountable for not yet correcting this issue.
I can walk into any business park, toss a stick and hit at least a few health IT consultants. I’m not trying to wrinkle anyone’s designer suit, but we should all understand one thing: the discrepancy between the size of the health IT field and the percentage of actual triumphs suggest we’ve been focusing on all the wrong areas.
The user matters more than anything, period. When we talk about a Health Information Exchange (HIE) or download buttons for Personal Health Records (PHR), a few technical concepts start creeping into the conversation. And while things like data interoperability and standards are crucial to making sure information flow is seamless, they don’t mean much to the people that actually use the software daily.
Data models and vendor integration is even more complex beneath the hood, but the user is only concerned with solving problems. Users care about loading times, how quickly they can perform vital actions, whether the color scheme is off-putting, screen clutter and so on.
The user experience of a software product is its soul. It’s the membrane between human and computer, and it should be calibrated to allow for optimum interaction.
The usability of software is barely a subjective measure. The user can differentiate between easy and annoying very quickly, so instead of bragging about technical terms that mean nothing to our target audience, we should be asking ourselves a very different question:
How intuitive is the interaction between human and computer? To what extent does the user care about a robust set of features and affordability if it’s a hassle to use?
If the proposed solution isn’t more efficient or convenient, it’s redundant, and we don’t need it any more than a fish needs a bicycle.
Take the age-old rivalry between Apple and Microsoft for instance. Apple understood an interface designed for a mouse and keyboard wouldn’t work on touchscreens. So it pioneered an entirely new operating system for its touch devices, while Microsoft chose to port Windows.
Today, Microsoft is struggling to establish itself in a mobile market iOS dominates. Apple knew usability would be the differentiating factor in a battle between otherwise similar devices. Their take on user experience is phenomenal, and it defines the company Apple is today.
The user doesn’t care about technical ‘stuff’ – there is enough to worry about as it is. Users want software with an interface as subtle as a film camera. If you watch a movie and become conscious of the operator’s movements, chances are it’s sloppy.
Our responsibility is to shield physicians and patients from the complexity. We should be striving to better solve the problem, which is to say, create more convenient, economical and user-friendly solutions. Physicians shouldn’t have to settle for the lesser of two, three or even four evils when choosing software to power their practice.
Meaningful use, physician workflows, insurance claim submissions, patient eligibility and payer denials are simply the cost of doing business. But to assume we’re the only industry with challenges and then forcing the user to share our burden is a tragic mistake.
And if you don’t want to better solve the problem, then leave it to someone with the drive, passion and willingness to get their hands dirty to make this world a healthier place.
I recently spoke on a panel for the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce on how to create a culture of innovation. Here are my notes from the talk — as always, I welcome any and all feedback.
How do you define innovation?
Many people think of innovation as one breakthrough idea that changes everything. I believe that on the surface this is generally true, but in reality, innovation is the sum of lots of tiny little improvements which come together and are packaged as one ground-breaking event.
Apple iPhone — the iPhone was the product of many innovations in Apple including the iPod, their OS X operating system, Steve Jobs’ relentless attention to detail and design. Combined, all of these traits are what made using the iPhone an experience unlike anything else at the time.
Angry Birds — The game that has swept the world and has been downloaded half a billion times, is the result of many failures by Rivio, the development company had developed 56 games before hitting it big with Angry Birds — so far, fans have played a total of 200,000 hours.
How is innovation managed at your firm?
CareCloud has a very design-focused culture and has had that since the start. Everything we do is centered around the user and delivering an incredible experience. That really helps frame the problems we’re trying to solve on a daily basis and keeps everyone aligned around one goal — revolutionizing the healthcare experience.
Operationalizing all of that is a whole different story. At the end of the day, creating a culture that values collaboration and creativity is what you have to focus on building — having one person responsible for innovation is never going to give you the ability to develop all of the little innovations you need to make something that really changes people’s lives.
How do you develop a climate of connectedness (of ideas)?
Using social tools to share ideas, articles, presentations and content within our business has really helped permeate ideas cross-functionally. We started with a tool called Yammer — it’s basically a Twitter for businesses. We’ve now moved over to Chatter, which is Salesforce.com’s social tool for enterprises and it’s really great. It’s critical that great ideas can be shared and constructively discussed wether you’re in Sales, Development, Finance, HR or Marketing.
Social technology has fundamentally changed the way we interact with our friends and family and I don’t see why it won’t have an even more powerful impact on the way we work.
How does your organization foster tolerance for mistakes?
One of the things we feel we’ve done really well at CareCloud is really be a ‘student of the game’ and there’s no better teacher right now in the realm of business innovation than Silicon Valley. The Valley is one of the only cultures that really puts it’s money where it’s mouth is when it comes to failing. There’s a certain level of respect you earn when people realize you put everything on the line for something you truly believed in.
Risk is just a reality of any startup or great idea and quite often the only element that’s missing for real success is the necessary time and resources for that idea to fully mature and gain momentum.
What’s important, however is to instill a data-driven culture. We like to focus on ‘failing fast’ and knowing when to move one, especially when you can make these decisions based on fact rather than instinct.
How does your organization encourage critical learning through failures or mistakes?
Recognizing the failures and mistakes is less about focusing on what didn’t work, but why. There’s almost always a silver lining and finding successful elements in a project is critical.
This is something that you have to be really mindful of, particularly when considering my generation, the Millenials, the net natives, generation Y, or whatever you want to call us. A lot of us are entering the workforce now and bringing a lot of technology and a reputation for being peer oriented — which is great for creativity and teamwork. However, constant feedback and positive recognition is something that is really valued with this generation. It’s important to be direct and openly discuss shortcomings, but ultimately rewarding the risk that was taken is going to take you much further. People will learn from their mistakes, but you have to keep that motivation going.
How does your organization attract talented people?
Having a goal or purpose bigger than yourself, bigger than the company is what’s worked for us. We tripled our employees in just one year — we’re at about 100 people now and I can tell you that I get to work with some really incredible, smart, creative people. Everyone of us comes to work everyday knowing that we’re working towards leaving our mark and making a difference. Healthcare is plagued with administrative waste and soaring costs. This is a simple cause most people can get behind and feel good about every single day.
How can we, as a community, be more innovative – how can Miami become a destination for innovative firms – or firms that take on the hallmark of innovation? A rising tide lifts all boats — it’s important for companies to work together, not against each other to create an ecosystem that attracts the best people in the world. Mentorship is a key element of this. I once heard this concept of mentorship as a cross — I think it’s genius. Most people, try to get mentors that they can look up to and ‘pull’ from for assistance. Most people also have peers, those that are to the left and right of you and you would consider equals.
What a lot of us don’t focus so much, or maybe only until we’re much older, is the bottom portion, helping those under you, less experienced and less senior. If everyone focuses on creating a cross of mentorship, we would create a much more effective support system and something that we can all be really proud about.
How do we spur entrepreneurs to become innovative?
I tend to believe entrepreneurs, by nature of being who they are, are innovators. They tend to have tremendous pressure either internal or external to create a tremendous amount of value out of very little — that’s very hard to do if you are not innovating.
It’s important for Miami to continue to provide the resources entrepreneurs need to thrive — through our schools, through our government and in our personal lives from our friends and family. This ultimately boils down to the culture we’re creating — hopefully one that values hard work, fun, creativity and a high tolerance of risk.
I love my American Express Charge Card, I really do. I use my Gold Card to pay for pretty much anything I possibly can because of all the associated benefits: Reward Points, warranty extension, amazing customer service, etc. I’ve grown to love the Amex brand and consider myself a loyal and happy customer.
However, this new ad campaign around ‘Social Currency’ bothers the hell out of me. Amex thinks that by building a foursquare app, allowing you to purchase Zynga virtual goods and then spending ‘lots of cash on ads for their ‘Social Currency’ campaign, they are going to get all of us all up in a lather and excited to use more points. The real shame here is how they tout this as a new product or service— when it fact it’s just hype.
True social currency models, those which have the ability to really impact how money moves and effect purchasing power are emerging and consequently, changing the payment landscape. I think it’s a huge disservice for Amex to tout their rebranded Reward Points as being social. Real social payment models like group payments (Social Flights), contingent payments (Grow VC), networked payments (Luxset), dual-party payments (SocialWise) and parallel payments (Amazon’s Flexible Payments) are truly innovative and open up a world of opportunities for startups and companies alike to change not only the way, but also what we are able to purchase.
If Amex really believes that “We live in a social world, isn’t it time we had a social currency to match?” then they need to pony up and consider acquiring a company who’s actually in the social currency space. Sorry guys, the ability to use my Reward Points to buy stuff on Amazon.com and Ticketmaster.com doesn’t count as social.