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Does Your Healthcare Tech Product Fuel the "Alarm Fatigue Syndrome"?

Alarm clock.jpg

Data is good. More data is better. At least that’s what some people think. Although there is some truth to that position, at some point, too much information leads to overload. There is a difference between the volume and the value of data, and more data doesn’t automatically lead to better patient or operational outcomes.   

In an interview published in the April 30, 2018 issue of Modern Healthcare, Allscripts CEO Paul Black discussed data that is not properly managed, harmonized and de-duplicated. His comments referred to assimilating Big Data feeds that incorporate information from several sources, but his remarks apply to all of healthcare data. “It’s like reading the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and C-Span all at once,” he said.  Without an interpretive framework, data is just noise.

Anyone who has spent any time in either an inpatient or Emergency Department setting has heard numerous alarms happily chirping in the background and being ignored by virtually everyone. Many electronic gizmos that are part of patient care these days sport alarms to alert caregivers when some kind of threshold is exceeded. And these thresholds are exceeded regularly. By many devices. And they are regularly ignored. If everything becomes urgent, nothing is urgent.

When medication management software for physicians first hit the market, there were so many low threshold alerts about dosing and potential interactions that many physicians learned to click right through them and essentially ignore most of them, defeating the alerts’ purposes. In some cases, they missed truly important warnings resulting in patient harm.

Patients may think it’s wonderful that their primary care physician can access the steady stream of heartrate and other biometric data from their fitness monitors, but no physician has the time to sort through tons of undifferentiated data. Even getting a condensed daily feed of summary data can be overwhelming unless there is an analytical overlay to alert the clinician when action is required. The best apps provide clear alert systems (e.g., color-coding patients as green, yellow or red) so someone from the physician’s staff can immediately identify the patients that require immediate attention.

Recommendations: 

  • If you are vendor offering a product that greatly increases data flow to physicians or hospitals, be sure to solicit input from relevant clinicians concerning the types of information that are truly helpful. 

  • You must include an analytical framework that provides immediately identifiable intervention thresholds. 

  • Incorporate the ability to conveniently modify alert thresholds so clinicians can customize notifications to match their preferences.

  • Develop mechanisms that guide clinicians toward suitable interventions so they can easily step in. Remember that beyond being valid, data must also be actionable.

  • As you are presenting your product, make sure you communicate that you understand the difference between volume of data and value of data that has been curated.

Getting Ready to Launch a New Product? Don't Make Either of These Timing Mistakes

Developers and entrepreneurs spend months or even years preparing their product for market introduction. A danger they face is misjudging when to launch. They must heed the old saying, “You only have one chance to make a first impression,” but some may obsess over this too much and, therefore, delay their product’s introduction longer than necessary. This can lead to losing the first-in-market advantage and/or missed sales. However, in an attempt to beat the rest of the market, other vendors make the mistake of launching prematurely, with sometimes-devastating results.   

Do you remember Apple’s disastrous 2012 launch of its new Maps app? It worked perfectly unless you didn’t want to have to find a train station in the middle of lake or were confused by aerial-view interstate maps that resembled overcooked spaghetti. Once a product gets cast as inferior, it can take years to recover. Some never do.

In order to avoid this mistake, some companies overcompensate and wait too long. This potentially creates two problems:

·         If your product is groundbreaking or transformational, a delay gives competitors extra daylight, and you could forfeit your “first to market” advantage.

·         Delays slow down cash flow, something which can prove fatal to a cash-starved startup.

Recommendation:  If you are introducing a groundbreaking service or product, seek the sweet spot where your minimally viable product performs all its essential functions adequately yet still gives you a head start in the market. A product that does exactly what it purports to do – even if it’s not particularly fancy – establishes your credibility and starts the cash flow so vital to continued development. If early adopters like what they see, they will likely talk your product up among their peers.