The Healthcare Hype Circle

Gartner Inc. coined its own term for the patterns it observed with respect to technological adoption – The Garnter Hype Cycle. It’s not a scientific model. It’s not even a cycle (see diagram below). But it’s a decent intuition pump to help us think about technology innovation and evolution.

If the Gartner Hype Cycle is a valid model, it stand to reason it applies to Healthcare technology.

I would argue, however, that a substantial amount of Healthcare innovation and adoption doesn’t undergo a cycle.

In fact, I think Healthcare may be stuck in a hype circle.

Look at examples:

  • Electronic Medical Records – how long have we been talking about this?
  • Mobile Health – how long have we been talking about this?
  • Real-time Enterprise information flows – how long have we been talking about this?
  • Social Media – how long have we been talking about this?

The list of things that do get hype in Healthcare goes on. Now, just because something is hyped, it doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. The inherent value of an idea or thing does not depend on the conversations around it – but it can be influenced (e.g. the hype generates more attention and thus more funding and use).

We need to start thinking about the Healthcare Hype Circle because that’s the place things where advancement bogs down. Otherwise, we’ll too often have a false sense of something happening.

If we can see the circle of hype – that the hype/anti-hype chatter – does nobody any good, then we investigate how to break the circle and lift the front end up so innovation can spiral upward.

For too long Healthcare has largely been stuck in the Trough of Disillusionment – or Circle of Disillusionment (like a ring out of Dante’s Inferno).

It’s becoming more and more apparent to me that we need to hear insight from non-Healthcare talent.

George Orwell was right: “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”

Some things about Healthcare are patently obvious. Apparently more so to outsiders than insiders.

To break the Healthcare Hype Circle needs a constant struggle…and fresh eyes.

To break the Healthcare Hype Circle needs a constant struggle…and fresh eyes.

To break the Healthcare Hype Circle needs a constant struggle…and fresh eyes…. 🙂

@PhilBaumann – @HealthIsSocia – Newsletter of Hype

0 Replies to “The Healthcare Hype Circle”

  1. So, Phil: I think you’re bang-on solid with this. I’ve watched this curve play out many times, and I think it’s useful.

    A career military friend always points out “the first reports from the field are always wrong.” A recent example is the report that Cong. Giffords died. It happens at the initial splash: “Holy cow, something new happened! It might be / could be / might mean…” Note that this is based on recognition of major changes that have happened in the past – and I suspect our brains are wired to detect things that are similar to past major changes. I bet it’s survival wiring, which means it ain’t likely to disappear or be trained out of us.

    We can’t stop it, but as with sexual impulses, we can learn to understand them, be self-aware, and deal with them responsibly. (Yeah, I’m comparing the New Cognitions Curve to sex.)

    Personally, I think Gartner completely nailed these phases – the names are dead-nuts accurate.

    I think we should work on this subject, somehow. Inside the smoke and flash there’s juice and genuine – our job is to sort it out. Hit me up.

    1. Hi Dave

      Agree with your comparison to impulses – we do have to understand them. You point out something important: the hype cycle is just as much about human psychology (individual and collective) as it is about technology and its progress.

      Huge territory to explore in that in itself.


  2. Part 2 –

    In my experience the way to sort out something like this is to look at some explicit examples and see what happened. Pick something that *is* different today vs 5 years ago, and see what happened compared to this curve.

    And given the brain’s urge to focus on the new, it’s important to grope in the smoke looking for actual active ingredients: in some clouds there’s something real, some basis for traction, and in others there’s nothing.

    This is exactly why from my earliest speeches, I latched onto “What’s real in this e-patient stuff? Is there any ‘there’ there?” Answer: the ability to bring value to a healthcare situation depends on access to information, and the internet has indeed changed that, radically. That’s why this e-patient stuff has grown, not faded away – and it helps us focus on the need to improve how patients find, vet, and evaluate that information.

    The proof of the pudding is that the same (find, vet, evaluate) turns out to be useful for others in the ecosystem – docs, nurses, caregivers.

    To apply this to one of your bullets: what’s real about social media’s impact on healthcare? Well, every time a patient (or doc) finds useful new info on social media, that’s genuine value. Two examples: Monique Doyle Spencer’s henna remedy for hand-foot syndrome; @StaticNrg finding an answer – in her patient community – to an Rx question her pharmacist couldn’t answer

    That’s real value – traction in the smoke. Those are value pathways we can harness, enhance, build on.

    Lots more to say on this, for instance: be sure to specify the context of the value you’re asserting. Some things are valuable to patients, some to vendors, etc etc.

    1. Buidling on my comment above, here’s a question:

      What impact on the adoption of a given technology does the involvement of specific participants have on the way its used?

      For example: if physicians and nurses and other scientists are absent in the conversation and adoption of a tool, how does that effect its value?

      That is, how is the cycle shaped by the contributions – or lack thereof – of different communities and sub-communities?

      Understanding that may be another key to unlocking best ways to ensure we have the most robust, safe and effective uses of these ever-evolving tools.


  3. Building on Phil’s second comment, I think it is also interesting to think about this cycle in relation to early adopters vs. the “the general public” within each niche group of patients and medical professionals.

    A chart like this would definitely loop as the product, platform or service becomes known in the different parts of a given circle’s population.

    I also don’t know that I agree that the peak of inflated expectations is higher than the plateau of productivity… It implies that you’re never going to get over 100% of the people initially talking about you as users and as weird as it may sound, I don’t know that to be true as the sales pitch of a terrific new (fill in the blank) migrates from pundit to people I know. This inevitably happens when a great product is used and word of mouth grows over time…

    Loving this discussion.

  4. Loving all this – do y’all think I’m on track in thinking the real juice is in sniffing out where the real value is, in any Shiny New Object, to harness and groom said value?

    To me that’s even more useful than recognizing the hype pattern.

    1. Definitely Dave. With mHealth, for example, it’s hard not to notice the hype around the use of technology in health… but the lasting value will actually come from showing health outcomes.

      I realize that health outcomes take time to show, so the next best thing in the meantime is having a product that lots of people want to use because the value they receive from it is obvious to them.

      We all know that we CAN use mobile devices in health, but why do people WANT to integrate them into their lives, is the question to answer now in my opinion.

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