Starting Over: An Innovator’s Dream

I’ve been in software for more than three decades, and I know from personal experience that you only get to truly start over about every 10 years. The rest of the time you have to start with the current product. 

Think about the transition from DOS to Windows or from MacOS to OSX – those new UI breakthroughs and new ways of talking to the computer happen rarely. Great products (and great breakthroughs) happen when companies don’t just “convert” to a new platform, but instead they reconsider, “What is the user trying to do? How can we help them do it easier?”

We’re in the midst of the next grand transition – to keyboard-free tablets like iPad. This transition gave us the chance to start over, and you can see the results in Allscripts Wand™, a new, intuitive iPad application for EHRs. 

When Easy Is Hard
I remember hearing a physician speak at a conference. He pleaded, “Why can’t it just be easy?” I wish I knew who he was – because that question burned in my head for a long time.

So when we built Wand, instead of thinking “How do we get this done in XX months?” or “How do we get our existing product to run in that tablet?” we started over. We strove to answer the physician’s question, “Why can’t it just be easy?”

And that forced us to make some tough choices – what do we NOT do? We were tempted to try to “make all things possible,” but then we’d have to give up “easy.” So we focused on simplifying the most common activities on-the-go clinicians need to access.

The result: simple things such as renewing a medication or marking a problem as resolved take only two touches on an iPad. 

Starting with that one physician’s plea, we created Wand by listening.  Since we don’t interact with patients, we reached out to our user community—the people we’re building Wand for.

For example, last week we added “Date of last visit” and “Date of next visit” to patient messages as they are displayed in Wand. It wasn’t our idea, but when two users submitted the request, we responded. 

See it Yourself
Go to the Apple AppStore and download Wand. You can teach it to yourself because it runs in demonstration mode. It’s free. If nothing else, you can get a clear indication of what the future will bring.

And you have ideas for the next version, please post a comment. I’m listening.

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About the author

Stanley Crane is Chief Innovation Officer for Allscripts. In his more than 30 years of healthcare and consumer-related software experience, he has led the development of award-winning software programs including electronic health record, electronic prescribing, web-based medication sales, online physician education, resource scheduling, financial systems, materials management, medical translation software and voice recognition dictation systems. Previous to his healthcare experience, Stanley was involved in Silicon Valley, where he held positions with many well-known software companies. As the General Manager of Lotus cc:Mail, he created the first remote mail products. He was also the Vice President of Engineering at WordStar International, and Director of Applications at Ashton-Tate, managing their Macintosh products as well as dBase IV. Before that, Stanley was a founder of two Internet startups – MaxMiles, an automated frequent flier mileage aggregator, for whom he built the first versions of the product; and Shopping@Home, a company that was acquired by Allscripts in 1999 to support medication sales.

3 COMMENTS on Starting Over: An Innovator’s Dream


Ravi Ramanathan says:

04/09/2012 at 4:35 am


Nicely articulated. Allscripts Wand is interesting. Not from the healthcare domain (other than helping set up a healthcare practice in one the organizations that I served with) but with nearly all my experience in the Information Technology industry, I can relate to your points about starting over, simplicity, intuitiveness and “easy” on software products.

“Listening” as you mention is the key to providing a solution. In this saturated marketplace where there are more EHR products than we can count and multiple statutory requirements for data capture, store & accessibility one can only think about substitution or imitation modes for entering the markets.

I like your thought process on providing a solution to a need (a definition for marketing from 50,000 feet high) resulting in a solution that not only addresses your clients’ needs but also makes it “easier” for them to adapt and adopt by introducing the mobile computing platform.

Reminds me of the Martini advertisement ‘any time, any place, anywhere’… only in this case it is for medical information.

Ravi Ramanathan

    Stanley Crane says:

    04/09/2012 at 11:02 am

    Thanks Ravi – Wand is really the result of a collaboration between us and our user community, with the remarkable openness to change on both sides. We all have to be willing to do what we’ve never done before, to try what we’ve never tried before.


Ravi Ramanathan says:

04/10/2012 at 2:55 am

True. I remember struggling to build an application for providing health records to nursing practitioners in the US who are experts in geriatric care interventions. Tablet PCs, though bulky (at that time) were considered as far back as in 2003. This application was built for nursing practitioners that would access data on their tablets (there was also a requirement to include MDS) through wireless connectivity when they visit geriatric patients at their residence. During the requirement gathering phase, we had a number of physicians, nurses as well as hospital administrators providing inputs. There were so many views… so many requirements and so many ideas! I understand what you mean.


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