An Open Healthcare Technology System: A Catalyst for Long-Term Innovation

March 6, 2024
It’s time to let go of old assumptions and thought patterns around interoperability, says one senior healthcare tech executive

A profound transformation is on the horizon in healthcare technology, and it extends beyond the promise of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and modern data science. And that change is fundamentally significant for the sustained innovation of healthcare technology.

For decades, the healthcare technology sector has operated as a closed system. Healthcare organizations followed similar practices and relied on finding solutions to problems from within their organization. Other industries were rarely consulted. To land a role in healthcare technology, a job candidate needed experience in the industry. The industry predominantly hired from within, limiting the infusion of fresh perspectives. This closed system, while rooted in reason, such as the complexity of healthcare and regulatory challenges, has held back progress in healthcare technology.The consequences of a long-standing closed system are evident today. While other industries have benefited from increased productivity, availability, and performance of new technologies and methodologies, healthcare technology has been slower to adopt. Therefore, innovation and modernization have been slow to materialize. In many cases, healthcare organizations lack the foundational elements necessary to adopt game-changing technologies and this has stymied progress within the industry.

To break free of this trend, healthcare technology must evolve. The closed system should give way to a more diverse and inclusive approach, incorporating technologies and methods from other industries. High-tech and financial services professionals should be actively recruited. Technology leaders must become advocates of change, focusing on initiatives that can transform healthcare.

Fortunately, the closed system is being challenged, particularly after the COVID-19, which led many healthcare organizations to rapidly upgrade their technology approaches, operations, improve digitation and cybersecurity. Healthcare startups and early-stage companies with a more dynamic and modern approach are also fostering change. These types of organizations prioritize skills, outcomes, agility, creativity and work ethic over prior industry experience, nurturing a pool of innovative talent while pushing for change in the traditional healthcare system.

Clearway Health, a specialty pharmacy accelerator working with hospitals and healthcare systems to build and strengthen specialty pharmacy programs has harnessed the benefits of an open healthcare technology system. The company has implemented a nearshore outsourcing model as part of our open healthcare technology initiative. While the nearshore model is not a new concept, it is rarely used in healthcare to help a company excel in the market. This model enables the Clearway Health technology team to work directly with professionals in nearby countries with diverse backgrounds to develop tools. These tools expedite the mundane tasks our pharmacy teams have to complete, which allows them to spend more quality time helping patients. By diversifying its technical workforce and leveraging new technologies, Clearway Health helps hospitals and health systems improve productivity, reduce staff burnout, enhance patient care and increase revenue.

To embrace an open healthcare technology change within your own healthcare organization, consider the following:

1) Challenge Your Thinking Around Hiring: Some roles may require healthcare specific knowledge, but not all roles do. Review roles that truly require prior healthcare experience and eliminate stipulation where it's unnecessary. Change job descriptions and remove the “prior healthcare experience required” prerequisite. Seek candidates from diverse backgrounds to inject innovation into your team. Look for someone entirely different than your current team members who will add something new to your mix.

2) Build Networks Beyond Healthcare: Explore networking groups beyond healthcare and build connections in the financial services, high-tech, manufacturing, and energy fields to learn from different industries. LinkedIn Groups is a great place to start to join non-healthcare focus groups. Reach out to the moderator and ask to be included in the discussion. Let the moderator know you hope to learn concepts and approaches that might be leveraged in healthcare.

3) Attend Non-Healthcare-Focused Events: Engage in conferences and events outside of the healthcare sphere to gain fresh insights and ideas. These events are opportunities to be introduced to ideas, concepts, approaches, and technologies that can be relevant in the healthcare space. Open your mind and engage your creativity. Watch the dots get connected and your imagination come alive.

4) Create Buddy Pairings: Now that you have hired non-traditional employees, it is time to engage. Pair the new employee with a traditional employee so they can both embrace something new. The buddy will help bring the healthcare context the new employee might not have. And the new employee will bring experience and perspectives to the buddy who would otherwise not have this exposure.

The healthcare technology landscape is evolving, and the closed healthcare technology system is no longer enough. It’s time for healthcare technology leaders to take the lead in driving meaningful change forward.

Rusty Atkinson is vice president of information technology at the Boston-based Clearway Health.



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