The Six Degrees of Integration
Tipping points and network theory. Malcolm Gladwell and Kevin Bacon. If short books and the Science Channel have taught me anything, it’s this: while I may not have all the answers, it is only a hop, skip, and a jump to where the answers lie and simple things may have the biggest impact (TV and the Web reaffirm this daily).
Have you noticed that no matter where you look, someone is promising the grand digitization of healthcare in the oh-so-near future. I’m starting to chafe from the tipping point upon which we’re supposedly perched. However, a look at the percentages of full-blown HIT users, either provider-side or consumer, doesn’t seem to tilt the impression that mass adoption is all that imminent.
Still, with Facebook at nearly a quarter of a billion users and Twitter plotting its plan to become the first Internet site to reach a billion users, it is apparent that providing people with a tool they: a) understand; b) find simple to use, and: c) find real, immediate use for has major power to quickly topple a tool over into mass adoption. If healthcare IT could get off its high horse and learn a lesson or three from these more “common” contrivances, maybe we could actually reach the Promised Land of Healthcare Information Integration.
Enter Kevin Bacon. HIT struggles virtually non-stop to understand how to integrate all the data we derive daily, be it patient care info, new medical knowledge, or business numbers management. And, from Kalamazoo to Cocoa Beach, everyone is trying to figure it out almost independently. Well, Kevin says we are all only separated by some six degrees or less. What if we take a part of Mr. Bacon’s recipe, sprinkle in some of Facebook’s Gladwellian success spices, stir it all up within the HIT pot, and then dump the whole stew out upside down?
Instead of Six Degrees of Separation, what if healthcare information integration chose to focus upon the reverse view that we are all within “Six Degrees of Integration”? We are not separated so much anymore as we are integrated. A quick breeze about the HIT blogs brings up some pretty interesting observations along these lines from both the more notorious as well as some lesser-known HIT brainstormers.
Many of them are now bandying about notions related to direct-to-consumer healthcare information integration management beyond PHRs and EHRs. After all, every person on the planet has health which needs care at some point or another, just as most everyone has social networks with whom they want to keep connected. If simple social networking tools are able to empower such rapid adoption and end user deployment, then haven’t they demonstrated the fast, focused force available for integration of healthcare info if we only harness similar motivating energies?
To promote this reverse view of the Six Degrees for HIT, I propose a new organization: Pursuers of Integration’s Six Degrees, to be more affectionately known as PISD. If you don’t want to wait for the trickle down of big, siloed systems, consider becoming a PISD member. Help all of America, even all of the world, become PISD so we can get beyond the abrasive point upon which we tip.
The unwitting modern day Moses, Kevin Bacon, has shown us the Promised Land past the HIT Tipping Point. Now, if we could just pass over.
“If you’re not scared or angry at the thought of a human brain being controlled remotely, then it could be this prototype of mine is finally starting to work.” – John Alejandro King
Dr. Gregg Alexander is a grunt-in-the-trenches pediatrician and geek. His personal manifesto home page…er..blog…yeh, that’s it, his blog – and he – can be reached through http://madisonpediatric.com or email@example.com.