Why telephones are the wrong solution for hospital communication.
When you’ve been in the computer software business for as long as I have, some themes tend to come back over and over again. During a recent presentation at a prominent hospital, I was asked, “With what wireless telephones do you compete?” Before I knew it, I time warped back to the 80’s to my Apple days.
I was in charge of Application Software at the time and in talks with a large corporation about the benefits of using an Apple II. The COO, leaned back in his chair and asked,“So Rob, tell me what this Apple II can do that I can’t already do on my Wang Word Processor or my IBM Selectric typewriter.”
Looking back, I now see that he was asking the wrong question. Apple II computers were not some glorified word processor. They were multi-purpose productivity systems that could type letters, keep the books, prepare proposals and analyze financial statements. He should have asked, “How were desktop computers going to transform my business?”
That’s where the difference between telephones and smartphones come into play. Telephones only do one thing and are slowly becoming a thing of the past. Smart phones are like desktop computers that fit into your pocket. And when you think about it, legacy telephones require that both parties (caller and recipient) be available at the same moment to properly communicate.
In busy hospitals, this is seldom the case. Caregivers are busy with patients, or family members, or physicians, or pharmacists, or phlebotomists or…a million other things. No one is sitting at a desk waiting for the phone to ring. So buying a telephone, even a wireless telephone, is like buying a Selectric typewriter in 1980 at the dawn of the computer revolution. Do you want to be on the wrong side of the tipping point? Do you think that hot new EMR application is going to run on a telephone?
Popular Mechanics just named the smart phone the number one gadget that changed the world - ahead of television and the bicycle. Smart phones didn’t achieve this because they are better telephones, but because they are changing the meaning of computers…and communication…and business…and education...and…you get my drift.
Learn to ask the right questions. How are we going to change the meaning of communications among care teams? What amazing things can we expect these highly mobile pocket-sized computers to do and how will it change the patient experience?