Vendor - A supplier of any good or service.
Ken Mandl and Zak Kohane's provocative opinion piece on Escaping the EHR Trap — The Future of Health IT in the NEJM is getting a lot of attention this morning. There are nearly 50 tweets of the article listed below, and plenty more to come.
The first thing that popped into my mind as I read the article was that it was troll baiting, looking for a response. And the pretty negative attitude about "vendors" that the article was written would seemingly guarantee a trollish response. I'll try to avoid it though, because there are far too many billy-goat gruffs out there.
I've got a lot of complaints about the article: The authors' make their claims about a whole industry, including all 700 certified EHR vendors and certified EHR products. The brush they paint with is very broad, and with it they make numerous unsupported assertions about vendor behaviors and product designs. Some of their claims (e.g., vendors blocking new entrants, locking up the data) are internally inconsistent with other statements in the article (e.g., EHR vendors have proliferated, data was exported to SHRINE from numerous systems). I could go on in great detail on each.
But perhaps the most faulty argument in the article is this section, and I want to spend most of my time on it:
A healthy IT marketplace would favor disruptive innovations (simple products and services that initially serve the bottom of a market and then move up to displace established competitors) for improving patient engagement, communication, and care coordination. Improved population health obtained at a lower cost would result.I'd suggest the authors reread Christenson's series on Innovation. I'll quote (emphasis mine) from page 187 of Clayton Christenson's The Innovator's Prescription to illustrate the real problem:
The Co-opting Power of the Present Value Network in Health Care
When disruptive innovators attempt to commercialize their innovations within the established value network in the industry — essential trying to cram it in the back plane of the competition in Figure 6.1— that system will either reject it (as it did with Sony's transisterized products) or co-opt the potential disruption, forcing it to conform to the existing value network in order to survive.The idea that disruptive innovations can fit into the current healthcare value network, as suggested by the authors', ignores this key point that Christensen expands on further (again, emphasis mine):
The very same ... process is at work within every company, and within the value networks in which each company is ensconced.Going back to The Innovators Dilemma, the value network in which hard drive manufacturers that were ensconced was the mini-computer marketplace. It was the new value network brought about by the microcomputer revolution which brought about the innovation and the disruption in the hard drive industry.
The real challenge is not providing disruptive technology in Health IT, but rather, in providing a new value network in health care that will enable disruptive innovation. When that happens, the new value networks will have the necessary technology to support it, and indeed, the current EHR industry will either adapt, or die, just as hard drive manufacturers did.
But to get there, we might need to looking at the behaviors of a very different set of "vendors".