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Why You Need a Physician on Your Healthcare IT Development Team

With the global healthcare IT market projected to hit $66 billion by 2020, it’s not surprising that technology companies have their sights set on healthcare. Right now everyone is trying to solve a problem in healthcare, from secure messaging, to digital health security, to interoperability. The question is, whose problem are they trying to solve?

Without a physician on your development team, there’s a good chance you’re solving the wrong problem. Here’s why:

A medical consultant is not enough

Many companies hire physicians to consult on their healthcare technology projects. They come in for an hour or two every few months, and they weigh in with their observations. It’s not unlike a group of real estate developers who check in every few weeks on a construction project.

The problem with that approach in the healthcare arena is that many decisions and assumptions are made—product feature decisions, workflow assumptions—in the intervening weeks between the consultant’s visits. When you’re talking about the development of a feature-rich app, that’s plenty of time for a project to lose crucial functionality or even get off track entirely.

A better approach is for physicians to be deeply engaged in writing the business rules for a technology product. It’s only after weeks of collaborating with developers that you arrive at a product that clinicians can really use. Through the process of writing the business rules, the physician learns what’s possible from a technology standpoint, and the developer learns what doctors and nurses really need in a clinical setting.

The power of a physician’s network

A physician on the development team actually brings his or her own network of consultants. All practicing physicians have access to broad communities of colleagues in many specialties. They’re easy resources to bounce ideas, suggest features and functionalities, and even serve as beta testers. The value of a ready-made network of product consultants shouldn’t be underestimated.

What does it look like when these pieces fall into place? You get an app that’s been designed to integrate seamlessly into the healthcare workflow, not retrofitted to serve emerging needs. To use the mobile health platform as an example, you get a secure messaging system in which doctors can communicate with each other on their own terms, and in which they can send and receive just the information they really need and not more. You get a product that optimizes workflow, increases efficiency and improves outcomes for hospitals and patients.