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February 20, 2019

Audio Jambalaya

After being in New Orleans for three days of industry meetings, yes, I am mixing my metaphors, just like some good jambalaya… a little of this, a little of that. 

As several of us strolled the French Quarter one evening, our ‘business casual’ attire making us stand out as the weirdos, one woman had her phone out, camera rolling.  It was her maiden voyage to Bourbon street.  The sometimes-jarring mix of sights, smells and tastes is the embrace of the Crescent City. 

After some great Cajun food, we struck out hunting for good live music. The Quarter didn’t disappoint.  And this was a Monday night.  Dueling pianos with sing-alongs, old white guys playing Chicago and Journey covers, kids in the street drumming rhythms on a paint bucket.  Country, rap, old rock and roll.  You can find it all. 

Then finally we hit The Big Easy pay dirt – a jazz quartet with a drummer who looked homeless, a lead singer wearing a borrowed suit that was too big, and an old, beat up saxophone.  The boys could play.

Thinking about the sounds of this unique place is fitting because I’ve had sound on my mind a lot of late, specifically the rapidly emerging innovative edge around AI-enabled voice assistants.  Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Nina, Bixby, Watson and others are coming to healthcare and it may be some of the best new technology news that physicians have had since the EMR era began.

There is a long list of criticisms we could level against the current EMR solutions, but without question tops on that list would be the negative impact that clinical and billing documentation has had on physician time, satisfaction and patient care. Pick one of a million stats that make the case.

Fortunately, it looks like help is on the way.  Now that the base infrastructure and capabilities for voice-enabled assistants is in place, there is race in the market – big tech players, established voice-recognition solution providers, a hundred start-ups – to tailor this capability to the specific needs of physicians. Some of the stuff that is coming looks really interesting…as in, ‘get you your life back’ interesting.  Start kicking these tires.

Let me close with a little side rant. 

We wrote several years ago that while the billions of government EMR subsidies did get healthcare digitized quickly, it came at the cost of jacking up the natural order of how new technology solutions evolve and improve in a competitive market, especially early. 

We predicted then that the historical pattern of it taking 20-30 years to get right any enterprise-level software, like the EMR-PM combo, would still apply and we’ll stand by that thought.  These voice-enabled improvements are one example of what ‘getting it right in the first place’ would have entailed.  But well-intended government intervention means that we’ve all had to live in the middle of this mess instead of letting the early market solve it the right way.  

Let the market work.  Fortunately, it is.

Tim Coan
Tim Coan

CEO and founder

Tim Coan, ALN’s CEO, writes an insightful and witty blog weekly about a variety of topics relevant to independent physician practices.