What Will it Take for Healthcare to Get Out of the MapQuest Era?

Remember the days of MapQuest? Before 2005, it was the go-to tool for getting directions. We entered our location and destination into a web portal, got step-by-step static directions in return, and then did the rest of the work on our own.

Then Google Maps happened.

It revolutionized how we navigate. Input a destination, and Google Maps dynamically manages the mental and emotional navigation work to get you to a destination. With this automation, our thinking shifted from just finding our way to one place to finding more places to visit and how to get help along the way.

Google Maps’ success came from using data in real-time to power automation. We quickly adapted to seeing our location relative to a destination, hearing voice-guided directions, getting notifications for more time-efficient alternative routes, and knowing where to find restrooms, fuel, food, and attractions – all on demand.

Static or retrospective data uses are inherently constrained. At best, we might get precise information about the work that needs to be done, like MapQuest’s step-by-step instructions to a destination. Real-time data uses are inherently expansive because there are unending ways to simplify or automate work. The more that gets done, the more we find other things to do that, in turn, can be automated.

And with the rise of no-code/low-code tech, it’s easier than ever to create advanced apps fueled by real-time data. Getting work done with data is standard in most industries where precision management and automation are crucial to compete - finance, banking, manufacturing, supply chain, transportation, logistics, and retail.

And healthcare? We’ve seen some advances in real-time data use. But it’s nothing close to what’s expected given how long EHRs have been around, the unprecedented growth in data volume and diversity, and the fact that healthcare accounts for 17% of the US GDP.

Yes, there have been improvements to the quality of care and an expansion of automation to visualize patient data during encounters, send alerts on work to be done, update data, and support imaging and other diagnostics decisions. But with hundreds of problems to solve using data and two decades of using EHRs, this is a paltry return. Big wins are in short supply, but unfortunately, big losses are not. The most notable is the impact of EHRs “dumping” administrative work on providers and an increase in dissatisfaction, frustration, and burnout.

Why is healthcare still in the MapQuest era? Given how long EHRs have been around and the explosion of innovative ideas and apps in the marketplace, you’d think we’d have a treasure trove of winning solutions by now. Automatically offloading work and enabling people to perform at the top of their licenses should be the norm today. So, what’s going on here?

Like with Google Maps, accessing the data you want in real-time is essential to automate and personalize experiences. In healthcare, it's the EHR data that everybody wants. And because healthcare has been hostage to difficult, cumbersome, costly, and constrained ways to use their EHR data in real-time, most digital apps have failed. If Google was constrained like healthcare is with real-time data, we’d still be using MapQuest. Here’s your instruction. Get to work.

Some say that healthcare is a conservative business where a slow pace of change is acceptable. Nonsense. Healthcare systems are always experimenting with new solutions and continue to seek wins, even in the face of failure fatigue.

Until recently, healthcare has not had the means to use their EHR data when, where, and how they need it. When healthcare systems recognize that they can break free of being hostage to data access constraints, the more they will discover the magic of how real-time data creates unending ways to simplify and automate work.