What can ehealth learn from Steve Jobs, Apple Inc., and Macworld?

by Hans on 2008/01/18

As in the past, I watched the 2008 Macworld keynote address by Steve Jobs.  This time, I was a bit surprised by some of the responses of the media and crowd.  Apple’s stock getting hammered didn’t help.  In any case, I think there are some good lessons for ehealth, and health care in general, that can be learned from Steve Jobs, Apple Inc., and Macworld.  Here are five lessons that we can learn:

1.  Focus on the user experience
This one should be a "no-brainer", as Steve Jobs always emphasizes building products that provide an excellent user experience.  You can see this in the design of Apple products.  For whatever reason, health care, and by extension ehealth, hasn’t really focused on the patient experience.  It is, however, getting better.  But, we’re still far away from anything remotely resembling a "patient-centered" system.  The system needs to change its orientation from being health care practitioner centered (i.e., physician) to putting patients first – and I don’t just mean lip-service, but real change.

An analogy of this would be the largely stereotyped caricatures of Microsoft and Apple.  Microsoft is seen as catering to the needs of business, whereas Apple promotes itself as a "consumer" oriented company.  This would translate into ehealth catering either to the existing institutional and professional powers versus patients and consumers.  FOCUS ON THE PATIENT EXPERIENCE!

2.  Demand excellence
Steve Jobs is portrayed as some tyrannical CEO who can be difficult.  However, he is known as a person who does not compromise and demands excellence from all staff and employees.  We can all learn to not compromise and give-in, but push for something better by demanding excellence.  Patients probably know this intuitively, but haven’t really had an organized voice to channel their expectations.  I know that individuals in the health care system all push to be the best they can be, but sometimes the rules, the bureaucracy, and the system just grind people down.  All of us need to demand ehealth to be excellent and not just convenient.

3.  "Think different"
This was a campaign slogan for Apple a few years ago.  I think it’s apt for ehealth of today.  Instead of succumbing to the often cited difficulties and generally accepted ways of doing things, we in the ehealth field have an amazing opportunity to push the boundaries and imagine all of the possibilities of what can be done to make things better.  Normally I hate the phrase of "thinking outside the box", but I think it fits here.  Apple Inc. is known to do things differently.  With so much more at stake, shouldn’t we also "think different"?

4.  Celebrate achievements & build excitement
I think Macworld is a great example of an event that gathers people together to celebrate the past achievements of the past year and also build excitement for the upcoming year.  eHealth needs to do more of this.  I know that there are annual conferences in the US, in Canada, and in other parts of the world, but they sure don’t get much press coverage.  If the Canadian conferences are any example, these are generally attended by industry folks with very little publicity.  A while back, I pondered the idea of having an ehealth or a health Olympics.  Maybe it’s time that we band together to create something bigger that can garner more attention and more excitement.  I don’t know about you, but whenever I talk about ehealth and the possibilities, I get excited.  We have a good chance to be important contributors in helping to make health care better for everyone.  We need to capture this excitement and inspire others.  Macworld does a great job of this for the "Apple faithful", but also generates quite a bit of buzz from non-Apple customers.

5.  Build partnerships
Apple is starting to learn how to build partnerships that are meaningful (e.g., Intel and Google).  Sure, they’re not great at it, but they’re trying.  The ehealth field can learn from this.  Instead of trying to do things on their own, we need to get together and build partnerships.  The problems and challenges are far too big for any one company or group to do it alone.  Governments and private sector groups working together is a good start.  Instead of competing with one another, we should encourage co-opetition so that more can be achieved.  But, don’t forget the patient!  The patient needs to be included in this partnership too.

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Karthick July 8, 2008 at 4:53 am

Great stuff. I ended up here searching for Steve Job’s works and this came out to be really nice.

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