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  • Writer's pictureShannon Lantzy

Why do amazing innovations fail to gain adoption in healthcare?

Ease of use and usefulness are two strong predictors of adoption, but they're not enough in healthcare.

Valuable innovations often go unadopted. Hospitals and doctors' offices took a very long time in healthcare to adopt electronic medical records. My parents took a while to warm up to a home automation assistant, but they now easily use voice commands and automation. I am tempted to buy an Apple Vision Pro, but until I can say why I would spend $3k on it without feeling embarrassed at my love of shiny new tech, I will abstain.

Users adopt technology when they perceive it is useful and easy to use. Why do people adopt a new technology? Well, as it turns out, there are academic studies on the subject. During my PhD studies, I took courses on Management Information Systems. One of the core theories was the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM), which presented a measurement model predictive of user acceptance. It's pretty straightforward; if users perceive ease of use and usefulness (i.e., "value"), they'll adopt. This theory was pervasive and persistent. Paper after paper followed it and found robust results.

In healthcare, perceived value isn't enough; we need evidence of actual value, too. Perceived value is insufficient when the stakes are high, when risks are invisible, or when the benefits only accrue after a long time. In this case, users and buyers need evidence of actual value. This is the case for many if not most medical devices and therapies, and why we have regulatory agencies like the FDA. It's why we do clinical trials and measure outcomes; the actual value of a proposed technology is critical and cannot be accurately perceived directly by the user.

But wait, there's more! We need perceived value and actual value, for each decision-maker. In healthcare, value needs to accrue to each stakeholder making a decision. If it is a regulated technology, FDA needs to perceive the value, then the payer (e.g., CMS) needs to perceive the value, then clinicians need to perceive the value. And, if it is a hospital-based device, the hospital administrators need to perceive the value. A new imaging technology for mapping organs may be clinically beneficial to a patient based on clinical trial results, but if a buying clinician doesn't also perceive the ease of use, the mapping tech will have a hard time gaining market adoption. Multiple stakeholder populations have to perceive the value, perceive the ease of use, and believe there's actual value and ease.

Helping healthcare is hard, but worth it. If you're offering a solution in the healthcare ecosystem and having trouble gaining tracking in the market, do a self-assessment:

  • Who are my decision-makers?

  • How does each perceive usefulness?

  • How does each perceive ease of use?

  • What is the actual evidence of usefulness?

  • What is the actual evidence of ease of use?

I hope this helps!

~Shannon, the Optimistic Optimizer


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