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What’s your Innovation Surface?

Every healthcare IT company wants to be Open, so every company comes up with a convenient, somewhat self-serving definition of it. As technologies change, the definition of Open also evolves over time. We all need a simple concept we can use to objectively measure how Open a product really is.

I’ll start by proposing some new language: Innovation Surface.

In the security and vulnerability space, we talk about “Attack Surface” – that’s “What are the ways hackers can attack you?” You want your Attack Surface to be as small as possible. Don’t expose anything you don’t have to.

It’s time to coin the phrase “Innovation Surface” – that’s “How many different kinds of technologies are available to a developer?” You want your Innovation Surface to be as BIG as possible, with multiple tools to enable creativity.

How big is the programmer’s playground?

In the same way the number of pieces of playground equipment can influence how much your kids like the park, the number of different kinds of technologies can influence how much developers like your platform. More technologies increase the Innovation Surface of the product.

If you went to a playground and it had a slide, and you were in the mood to slide down a slide, you’re in luck. But what if we want to swing, climb or build a sand castle? It’s good to have more options.

Allscripts has several different technologies that are available for developers to use. Of course HL7 is one of them. There are also many other tools to help developers customize how our products work, and our latest techniques enable developers to use Internet-like interaction to build cloud-based integrated products using our uniquely Open APIs.

To help determine the size of a vendor’s Innovation Surface, ask questions like these:

  • Can I add a tab?
  • Could I connect to a different patient portal?
  • Can my developers add vitals data from patient medical devices?
  • Could we build our own patient-caregiver communication module?
  • Could we integrate pharmacogenetics?

Hopefully your EHR vendor will say “yes” to questions like these, showing they have a large Innovation Surface. Otherwise, you will have to wait for them to invent or re-invent these things.

Estimating a vendor’s Innovation Surface should be part of the evaluation of any product. And the answer you’re looking for is far more than just a list of HL7 interfaces.  It should include a wide (and perhaps fun) range of options on the developer’s playground.

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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.

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