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EDITOR'S NOTES: Will Old-Style Healthcare Leaders Get “Googled” by the New Healthcare Pioneers?

March 20, 2015
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Will "old media" types learn to adapt to a "new media" landscape? What about "old healthcare" types facing the new healthcare?

One of the more fascinating books about the business and technology worlds to be written in the past several years has been Ken Auletta’s  Googled: The End of the World as We Know It, an inside look at the creation and evolution of the Google enterprise. And who better to write the 2009 book than Ken Auletta, an award-winning journalist who has written the “Annals of Communications” column for The New Yorker since 1992? Indeed, Auletta, who has won numerous journalism awards, brings the perfect blend of curiosity and knowingness to his exploration of the success of Google as a company and as a phenomenon.

But I have to say that some of the most fascinating parts of Googled actually come early in the book, as Auletta describes the media and communications landscape into which Google emerged, one that was filled with old media companies uncertain how to advance into the future. Auletta compared the deer-in-the-headlights position of “old media” companies in the face of the intensely disruptive emergence of Google into the media and advertising sphere, with Xerox’s early failure to grab market share in the desktop photocopy machine market, and IBM’s tardiness in shifting from a mainframe computer focus to enter the minicomputer market several decades ago.

Faced with Google’s new business model around Internet advertising, Auletta noted that old media executives found themselves confounded by change. “Defensiveness mixed with fear fueled resistance to change. In a 1994 speech to the National Press Club in Washington,” he writes, “Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone proclaimed, ‘I will believe in the 500-channel world only when I see it…’ The Web, he said, was just another ‘distribution technology,’ more ‘a road to fantasyland’ than a game changer. He envisioned that traditional media—movies, television, books, all content—would remain ‘King,’ concluding: ‘To me it seems apparent that the Information Superhighway, at least to the extent that it is defined in extravagant and esoteric applications, is a long way coming if it comes at all.’”

Is it a stretch to see the parallels between old media versus new media, and old healthcare versus new healthcare? I really don’t think so. Indeed, it’s fascinating to see how broad the space is these days between the most advanced patient care organizations in U.S. healthcare, and those lagging most seriously behind. At a really fundamental level, what is becoming clear is that some leaders see the new healthcare—a U.S. healthcare system of greater transparency and accountability, of continuously improved patient care outcomes, cost-effectiveness, and patient and community satisfaction—and others haven’t yet grasped the shifts taking place.

Well, among those that do see the shifts taking place, some patient care organization leaders are moving as quickly towards the new healthcare as they can, and are pioneering new models of population health management, care management, evidence-based care delivery, analytics for continuous performance improvement, and other important innovations. And it is our privilege once again to present our annual Healthcare Informatics Innovator Awards winning teams. This year, we are honoring four finalist teams—from the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic (Toppenish, Washington); Texas Children’s Hospital (Houston); the Children’s Health Alliance (Portland, Oregon); and the Bon Secours Medical Group (Richmond, Virginia)—as well as eight admirable runners-up.  What’s clear is that there are amazing pioneers out there in U.S. healthcare, people who see the future and are moving towards it, and in the process, are creating models of care delivery and other processes that are highly replicable. Do any of them have all the answers? Of course not; no one does. But at least these Innovators won’t end up being “Googled” the way old-media types in the communications world have been.