Are You Running a Fool’s Errand? Never Invest in Monolithic Legacy Solutions

September 8, 2016 Dave Bennett, Executive Vice President, Product & Strategy

Healthcare providers face a real quandary today. 
They’ve sunk millions of dollars into the software that runs their organizations and manages their patients, yet their legacy systems are no longer cutting it in today’s consumer-focused environment. And instead of changing their systems to meet modern technology demands, they’re sinking even more money into their systems in the hope that, if they invest just enough, those systems will somehow improve.

I believe that sort of effort is a fool’s errand.

Too rigid and restricted, monolithic legacy solutions—self-contained solutions that live independently from other solutions—will never do what today’s healthcare organizations need them to do, much less support the continued evolution of healthcare.

So what got the industry to this point?

  • The original investment in legacy technology has been difficult to forget. Healthcare organizations have invested heavily in technology since the ‘80s. Their systems were designed to deal with needs that were very specific to the time of their implementation. These systems weren’t future-focused, and no one wondered whether these systems were flexible enough to adapt as the organizations’ needs evolved.
  • Investing in maintaining legacy technology is an easy mistake to make. While continuing to maintain older technologies may seem like the fiscally responsible play, it’s not, because many of the so-called fixes to our legacy systems depend on other monolithic technologies, which taxes budgets while adding little value. It’s the age-old fallacy of sunk costs—recognizing that we’ve already invested so much, we double down in the hopes that further investment is all it will take to make everything finally work.
  • Purchasing and integrating new applications and data sets is expensive. To avoid forfeiting their legacy investments, many organizations try to add critical new applications and data on top of their existing systems, even if these systems are too rigid for that strategy. Today’s healthcare organizations need capabilities they didn’t need 20-plus years ago, when they invested heavily in digitizing records, EMR, and billing systems. They now need entirely different technologies, like real-time provider- and patient-engagement systems.

What I've learned in dealing with a wide variety of industries throughout my career is that the best organizations always stay hyper-focused on today’s and tomorrow’s technology needs.

To implement this future-focused approach, I recommend taking the following three key steps.

  1. Step back and consider your ROI. Too many healthcare organizations are stuck in a predicament where the price to maintain their monolithic legacy solutions is constantly inflating without driving value. As a result, their ROI is plummeting. To overcome this, step back and ask yourself where the real opportunity for ROI is. Where is the real opportunity to make a difference in the organization from a bottom-line perspective? I think many organizations have forgotten to ask themselves what maintaining these systems actually costs.
  1. Focus on both current and future needs, like real-time capabilities and increased engagement. We need to conduct business with a proactive, future-focused approach. One way to assess and determine both immediate and long-term needs is to look at your business model and find the use pattern that is most appropriate for your organization.
  1. Look for agility. The best companies in the world excel at being dynamic enough to meet current market demands. Today’s healthcare systems have to be adaptable yet accept that they can’t always plan for every contingency. If you put a premium on agility now, we won’t have to have this same conversation in the future.

While making further investments in legacy systems seems like a responsible, fiscally conservative move, I implore you: resist the urge to spend good money on technologies that have no hope of meeting today’s or tomorrow’s needs.

Instead, break free from that trap and face your current and imminent technology needs head on. The sooner you do, the sooner the endless cycle of managing upgrades for monolithic legacy solutions will be over, and the faster you’ll be on the road to implementing technologies that bring true value and ROI to your organization.

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Early ACOs have succeeded in building IT infrastructures that effectively enable collaboration around accurate, comprehensive, and up-to-date data, without requiring constituent entities to standardize on monolithic systems. Learn more: read the white paper now!

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