There was a time when most Americans built their own homes. Think of log cabins being crafted by hardy individuals -- cutting the trees, hewing logs and fitting the doors. Now, that method is a romantic idea, but almost nobody does that any more. Unless you have a lot of free time on your hands — you don’t build your own home. Even more, the people you hire to build your home don’t build it — they usually subcontract to specialists (plumbers, electricians, HVAC, etc.).
This has led to vast productivity increases in the building industry. And with productivity, comes lots of benefits. Americans now live in homes that are much larger, have more features and are of higher quality than those built by the occupants themselves. Oddly, many health IT vendors still maintain a “I can build it better/cheaper/faster myself” attitude. Especially when it comes to difficult, specialized areas like interoperability. Why? How is this different than building a home? Are software engineers just wanting to be burly coders? Or, is this a penny-wise, pound-foolish situation?
I recently spoke to a CEO of a health IT product company who had to re-architect his product. When I spoke to him 2 years ago, he introduced me to his CTO, who was sure they could build the interfaces they needed themselves. We discussed the efficiency of using a specialized cloud service, but this CTO was sure his team would have no problems. Unfortunately, 2 years later - the CTO is no longer with the company, and the CEO is having to re-architect the product.
There are parts of health IT that are complex and difficult, but also possible to specialize and industrialize. Doesn’t it make sense to do to Health IT what Eli Whitney did to cotton production over 200 years ago?
20 years ago, I had a beautiful and special timber frame house built. Many common components were built by subcontractors, but there were parts that were unique. The 2” thick tongue and groove Douglas Fir floors on the 2nd floor that also serve as beautiful ceilings from the 1st floor -- those were special, and I installed them myself.
Health IT should follow this model.
What’s the special “secret sauce” of your product? That’s what you hand craft… industrialize the rest. You’ll end up with a better product at less cost. You’ll also get features to market faster, and have less headaches along the way.