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Thursday, November 17, 2016 1:00 PM

Hold On Loosely

Written by Frank Fortner, President and COO of Iatric Systems

IBM’s CEO, Ginni Rometty once said, “never love something so much that you can’t let go of it.” Setting the business world aside for a moment, I’ll admit this has not always been my greatest strength.

For example, a few months ago, my wife and I rescued “Elza,” a beautiful 5-month old Belgian Malinois who had a pretty rough start. Abused, neglected, malnourished and frightened, she was in desperate need of stability, love, and of course, food! We quickly gave her all three, but since we already had three dogs, the plan was that we would foster her for the local humane society as we had done with others and she would find a good home. Well ... to make a long story short, I was a bit smitten and suddenly not a fan of fostering and … well … she’s a Fortner.

Ok, back to the business world. When Ginni uttered those (oft quoted) words, she wasn’t talking about puppies that needed a stable home, but rather companies that need to be thinking about reinventing themselves. Her point was that in business, you may need to let go of some things in order to reinvent and remain relevant.

In Steve Jobs' 1997 return to Apple, he reduced their product line by 70% in order to ensure the products that truly needed the resources got them. Through this and other decisions, he is credited with saving Apple.

When I came to Iatric Systems in the 20th century, our customers were thinking about faster modems, automated notifications for pagers and fax machines, and graphical user interfaces for clinicians.

Today, they’re thinking about predictive analytics and managing risk associated with HIPAA and cyber security. They are focused on aligning their businesses around the shift to value-based care (and the recent election won’t change that, btw). They are focused on advancing interoperability and improving clinical workflows, just to name a few.

Over time, the needs of the customer changes. To stay relevant, we should always be present and future-focused. What is it that our customers need today? What will they need tomorrow? Technology advances rapidly.

The past may be a useful teacher, but it doesn’t usually solve today’s challenges. The lesson for all of us in healthcare IT is to hold on firmly to the core of our mission, vision, and passion for improving care, but somewhat loosely to the actual tools and technologies that will get us there.