Hype cycle separates IT trends from glimmers

April 14, 2005
Douglas Page

Hype took center stage in an education session at the HIMSS meeting, "Hype aside, what's really happening in U.S. healthcare IT?"

Hype took center stage in an education session at the HIMSS meeting, "Hype aside, what's really happening in U.S. healthcare IT?"

Using the Gartner Hype Cycle as a backdrop, Dave Garets, president and CEO of HIMSS Analytics, separated healthcare IT market trends from market glimmers.

The Hype Cycle is a graphic representation of the five phases all technologies go through in their first three years:

*trigger

*peak of inflated expectation

*trough of disillusionment

*slope of enlightenment

*plateau of productivity

Garets said a trend is supported by data that show true market movement toward or away from a certain technology or application. In the Hype Cycle, a technology that has moved out of the trough of disillusionment and reached the plateau of productivity can be considered a trend. PACS and wireless technologies are examples.

Unlike early-adopter companies that eagerly embrace new technologies for the marketing edge during their climb to the peak of inflated expectation, about 85% of healthcare organizations wait until a technology has safely arrived at the plateau of productivity, Garets said.

"Most hospitals wait until 285 other organizations have a technology, so they can do site visits," he said.

In 1990, PACS was so expensive only the military could afford it, Garets said. Now, 42% of all hospitals have PACS, and another 34% are planning acquisition.

A market glimmer, on the other hand, is supported merely by anecdotal data, market noise, and industry hype. IT glimmers include computerized practitioner order entry (CPOE), radio-frequency identification (RFID), tablet PCs, digital hospitals, and barcoding.

"Two decades after supermarkets installed barcode checkout scanners, and after all the publicity about healthcare safety, only 6% of over 39,000 U.S. hospitals are using barcoding," Garets said.

And just when you thought it was safe to barcode, along comes RFID.

"RFID is a terrific idea, but adoption will take five to seven years," he said.

The same caveat applies to tablet PCs, a technology sliding into the trough of disillusionment.

"This is another terrific idea, but tablet PCs need longer battery life, they need to fit in a pocket, and they need to be robust enough to survive repeated drops onto linoleum floors," Garets said.

Garets said digital hospitals will be standard in 10 years, but right now the only ones are three heart hospitals: Oklahoma Heart, Indiana Heart, and St. Francis Heart.

"So far, not a single medical-surgical hospital is digital," he said. "The cardiology space is easier to digitize."