Case in point: A few months ago I bought a one-cup coffee maker—not the style that has been around awhile but a newer model that has additional settings to make the coffee stronger. The coffee is still not quite as good as my all-in-one grind and brew coffee machine, but I love the convenience. Unfortunately the model is so new that none of my local grocery stores carry the proper-sized coffee packs, so I have resorted to buying the coffee packs online. It’s not that buying online is that big of a hassle, but I may have selected a different model if I had realized that online was my only option.
Of course anyone working in health IT understands the phenomenon of unforeseen wrinkles with new-and-improved solutions. Many moons ago I sold billing systems to physician offices. At one point my primary job was to convince customers on an older legacy platform to upgrade to the latest product. NewProduct had many more bells and whistles than OldProduct so initially customers were eager to make the switch.
A few months into the migration project, however, we realized that NewProduct was missing a few of the nifty functions that customers had loved in OldProduct. We couldn’t move the clients back to OldProduct so we had to suggest various workarounds until the missing features could be incorporated in a later release of NewProduct. Despite all the enhancements in NewProduct, I am sure quite a few customers would have delayed upgrading if they had been aware of the loss of functionality.
More recently, a physician shared some of her concerns with her practice’s new patient portal. While she recognized and appreciated the many benefits of online scheduling, secure patient communication, and patient access to test results, etc., she disliked how the portal added more “noise” to her electronic in-box. She already received a steady stream of various electronic tasks generated by her EMR; having the portal feed her additional tasks left her feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. She had underestimated how much she personally would be impacted by the portal’s implementation.
Whether the new-and-improved product is a coffee maker, billing system, or patient portal, end users don’t like discovering issues that decrease the product’s perceived value and efficiency. Even when workarounds are available, and even when the advantages of the new outweigh the old, no one likes to be surprised by a negative. Unfortunately many wrinkles are unforeseen by those developing, selling, or using the products.
In a perfect world, end users would be fully aware of any product limitations before making a purchase. Since the world is not perfect, often the best course of action for technology developers, suppliers, and users is to figure out how make the best of the situation. Most wrinkles can be ironed out – unless, of course, your coffee maker only makes tea. A few quick tips, should your new-and-improved solution include any surprises:
- Cut short the blame game. Of course we all want to learn why and how a mistake was made, but don’t dwell on who gets the blame. Your energy is better spent finding a solution.
- Evaluate options. Are there workarounds or ways to tweak the product? If so, determine the best alternative and take action.
- Focus on the good stuff. Even when there are unforeseen glitches, chances are that on balance, the new and improved solution really is better.
I admit that on occasion I miss my old and non-enhanced coffee maker – especially when I run out of my fancy coffee packs and can’t run to the grocery store to buy more. Thank goodness there’s always Starbucks.
Michelle Ronan Noteboom
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