I hate technology. I love technology.
We live in a society where extremes and hyperbole have become the norm. Take eating habits for example. The latest diet always seems to involve eliminating entire food groups or core ingredients — no dairy or carbohydrates or solids. Let’s not forget intermittent fasting.
Another example is sports. Every time a team wins a championship, we’re led to believe they’ve created a foolproof blueprint for success. When the Seattle Seahawks reached the Super Bowl in back-to-back years (winning the first one and losing the second on the interception heard round the world), the talking heads had a field day, declaring that we had entered the age of the mobile quarterback. One even went so far to say that those who couldn’t run with the ball were going to run themselves out of a job.
The only person laughing harder at that statement than me was Tom Brady. And maybe Drew Brees.
That’s not to say being able to rush for yards isn’t a valuable skill; it certainly is, but for the pendulum to swing so far in one direction seems ridiculous.
And yet I’m guilty of the same thinking when it comes to technology. One minute I love it, the next I hate it. In fact, just last week I rode the extreme see-saw during a visit to the hospital for a routine screening. When I arrived to find a full parking lot (which, let’s face it, isn’t exactly a rarity), I had to settle for a metered spot — complete with one of those old machines. A quick check of my wallet confirmed I had no quarters (let alone the 6 I would need to avoid a ticket). But, to my surprise, the meter had a sticker with instructions on how to pay for parking online using an app.
By the time I reached the waiting room, the app had been downloaded, and I was a believer in the power of technology.
Then, right on cue, my newfound belief started to waiver when I was asked to show my insurance card. When I took out my phone to show the electronic copy (which is the only option with some carriers), I encountered the dreaded spinning wheel. Eventually I was able to access WiFi and email the jpeg to the receptionist, but I couldn’t help but wonder what happens if you can’t get on the Internet – or if your phone battery dies?
Hence the ‘hate.’ It’s perplexing, I know. But I also know I’m not the only one who experiences this dichotomy. I’ve had countless conversations with colleagues and friends who feel the same way. People who can’t navigate the road without Waze, but refuse to depend on Alexa for a weather report; people who treasure the ability to book flights and make reservations online, but believe using an app for meditation is counterintuitive.
And that’s precisely one of the challenges healthcare leaders face. How can you meet consumers where they are, when consumers don’t even know where they are?
It’s a big question, and one that isn’t going to be solved overnight. But I do believe the industry is moving in the right direction, especially with the emergence of roles like chief experience officer. Contrary to what some believe, the position isn’t focused on areas like parking and hospital food, but rather, on “providing oversight and doing everything we can to create exceptional experiences for our patients and those that care for them,” said Sue Murphy, CXO at UChicago Medicine. In an interview earlier this year, Murphy talked about the work her team is doing to facilitate communication across departments and involve patients in decision-making, which in turn can lead to higher satisfaction.
As a patient and consumer myself, hearing that gives me hope. And as expectations continue to evolve (and they are – rather quickly, according to CIO Craig Richardville), it will become increasingly important for health systems to appoint individuals, groups, and committees who are dedicated to figuring out how to meet them.
Because at the end of the day, that’s what matters most. Although technology and innovation have clearly changed the landscape, the bottom line has remained the same, said Murphy. “People just want to feel cared for.”
It’s one trend that has stood – and will continue to stand – the test of time.
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