We're addicted to technology, but we're not all that happy with it, and nowhere is this more evident than in health care.
For example, a recent post-mortem of HITECH, by John Halamka and Micky Tripathi looked at the "miraculous" success of the program in moving health care providers to electronic health records (EHRs). Still, the authors admitted: "Along the way, however, we lost the hearts and minds of clinicians.".
In their great analogy, "we gave clinicians suboptimal cars, didn't build roads, and then blamed them for not driving."
Indeed, EHR tasks are said to consume half of primary care physician's time, and nearly two-thirds of health care professionals in another survey said the ROI on EHRs has been terrible or poor; only 10% rated it positive.
As Jody Medich warns in Singularity Hub, our interfaces are killing us. According to Ms. Medich, The "human-machine-interface" (HMI) we've been relying on is all-too-often based on a time when we sat at a desk, looked at a terminal, and did things like math. It wasn't intended for now, when our computing devices are with us everywhere and expected to be always-on-call, for a variety of everyday tasks and in ways that we can immediately process.
Our cars as mobile technology platforms are a good example: driving at 70 mph, is not the best time to have to look at verbal information on a small screen or at confusing icons.
David Webster, a partner at design firm Ideo, frames the coming technology revolution differently. He writes: "The key is to design experiences around emotional value rather than rational value."
That may be the problem; our technology has always been written by hyper-rational coders, aiming at "rational" tasks, while much of what we do every day is driven by more emotional reasons. .
Mr. Webster gives the health-related example of a "smart" scale that chided a woman for gaining a few pounds -- not realizing she was four months pregnant. Getting such alerts can help motivate people, but they need to be appropriate and in context in order to be effective.
Just ask any health care professional about "alert fatigue."
Mr. Webster goes on to say:
The fundamental role of designers is to use creativity to bridge the gap between rational and emotional—to make new technology engaging and appealing by having it meet humans on their terms. We’ve found the best way to get people to integrate new products or behaviors into their lives is to connect with them emotionally, which encourages adoption.If there is any sector that needs to think about the emotional, it is health care.
Talk about emotional.
Much effort has been put into giving patients access to their heath records, yet Ambra Health reports 31% of consumers can't easily access them, and other research suggests that well below 30% of patients with such access actually access them. And how many understand them?
We're already floundering in data we don't easily understand and we're making it worse.
If health care was strictly rational, placebos wouldn't work and we'd be eager to replace our human doctors with artificial intelligence (AI) ones. But they do and we aren't.
Similarly, it's very clever to create "dashboards" for our various health information from our many devices, but we care less about what the numbers are than what they mean for us.
A previous post argued for the importance of data visualization, pointing out: "Let's face it: most of us are not good with numbers. Most of us don't think in numbers. Most of us think in pictures." Rasu Shrestha, MD, MBA, the UPMC chief innovation officer, gently disagreed, saying that most of us think in stories.
Pictures or stories -- either way, if we want tech to be effective, it has to engage us emotionally, not just rationally.
In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Mark P. Mills -- a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and engineering professor at Northwestern -- says the cyber age has hardly begun, as we have yet to truly integrate software into hardware "so that it becomes invisible and reliable."
Further, "the U.S. now stands at the equivalent of 1920 for ubiquitous cyberphysical systems," he believes, and "the dominant players of the cyberphysical age have yet to emerge."
Our 1960's/1970's approaches to technology have been very successful, but it is now the 21st century and it is past time for the next era of technology. Whether that is cognitive computing, emotional design, or cyberphysical -- or a combination of all three -- our technology needs to and is going to act very different. It needs to "know" us and react to us appropriately.
We are building technology with ever-higher IQs, when what we really need is technology with EQ.
Where better to start than in health care?