The FCC and Harvard Medical School

A short time ago, we wrote about news of a study done by the Harvard Medical School concerning the value of computerization in US hospitals.  A Computerworld article led with the headline: “Computers don’t save hospitals money”.  The article stated that in spite of promises to the contrary, IT improvements in hospitals do not improve care, and they don’t improve costs.  Now the FCC has gotten into the act, saying that broadband access will improve health care and save money. Do you believe Harvard, or the FCC?

First, as a negotiator, why do you care?  In short, it’s about credibility.  If you sell products, services, or ideas your credibility is directly tied to your success.  So if Harvard Medical School and the FCC disagree, it’s a credibility battle of titans.  When you are in a sales situation, your credibility has to hold up against alternative positions, or you may win the sale, but at a severely degraded price.

Let’s look at what the FCC has to say.  In Chapter 10 of their National Broadband Plan the FCC lists 11 recommendations related to health care.

Interestingly, one of the claims is that 61% of Americans are overweight or obese, which can lead to medical complications.  The cynical among us would argue that we need less broadband and more exercise to attack this problem.  Make us go to the library for research instead of looking it up on Wikipedia at our desk, and we’ll all lose a couple of pounds.  So let’s cut back on broadband as a national re-engagement with exercise.

OK, that’s not happening.  Moving on…

One of the things the FCC says is: “In its traditional role, the FCC would evaluate this challenge primarily through a network connectivity perspective.  However, it is the ecosystem of networks, applications, devices and individual actions that drives value, not just the network itself.”  This is a classic problem known to anyone that delivers infrastructure services or software.  What they sell (or in this case advocate) doesn’t solve any problems.  It only makes the system better able to incorporate problem-solving solutions.  This makes it harder to create a convincing value argument.  Your position becomes that by starting with your recommendation, and then putting other things on top, the client receives benefits that outweigh the investment.  However, you have to pay for the infrastructure now, with no guarantee that anything else will follow.  This is a tough sell.

The FCC goes on to say: “Health IT supports these priorities by dramatically improving the collection, presentation and exchange of health care information, and by providing clinicians and consumers the tools to transform care. Technology alone cannot heal, but when appropriately incorporated into care, technology can help health care professionals and consumers make better decisions, become more efficient, engage in innovation, and understand both individual and public health more effectively.”  The real issue here is credibility.  Do you, or do you not believe that these benefits will accrue?  Unless the belief is there, no progress will be made on the FCC’s proposal.

It’s all about two things.  First, the FCC needs credibility.  Then they need to make a convincing argument of value (benefit).  It is just like any other sale.   (td)

Got a question? Email a K&R negotiator directly at