Technology leaders are wise to mind the hype cycle

May 1, 2005

Healthcare information architects are continually faced with hype about new technologies. They may be urgent "to-do" action items, long-term strategic trends to watch or flashes in the pan that will never impact a healthcare payer.

Healthcare information architects are continually faced with hype about new technologies. They may be urgent "to-do" action items, long-term strategic trends to watch or flashes in the pan that will never impact a healthcare payer.

Gartner's Hype Cycle plots technologies against this pattern in order to provide technical strategists with an overview of the maturity of a gamut of technologies.

The hype cycle phases are:

Peak of Inflated Expectations: Overenthusiasm and unrealistic projections; a flurry of well-publicized activity by technology leaders results in some successes, but more failures. The only enterprises making money are conference organizers and magazine publishers.

Trough of Disillusionment: A natural reaction to early failures of the new technology to meet overblown expectations. Failures and delay far outnumber successes. Reports in the media make the technology unfashionable.

Slope of Enlightenment: A few early successes lead to a more nuanced understanding of the potential of a technology. An increasingly diverse range of organizations lead to a true understanding of the technology's applicability, risks and benefits. Commercial, off-the-shelf methodologies and tools ease the development process.

Plateau of Productivity: When the real-world benefits of the technology become widspread. Tools and methodologies are increasingly stable as they enter their second and third generations. Approximately 30% of the technology's target audience has adopted or is adopting the technology as it enters the Plateau.

IMPLEMENTING NEW TECHNOLOGIES Strategists should watch technologies nearing the peak-they are due for increasing hype followed by disillusionment before achieving widespread acceptance.

Recommendation engines are one such technology. They evaluate the results of predictive models and make suggestions for future interventions or actions that will bring a desired result. The value of personalization is just being recognized and payers' data is not yet integrated enough to use the technology.

Universal queue technology is in the typical midcycle state. Early results have been inconclusive. Strategists should not count them out based on current disillusionment. They include the ability to route contacts to a customer service representative, regardless of the communication channel used. Universal queue is not yet widely used in payer organizations.

Technologies located on the upward plateau at the real-world end of the cycle, such as rules engines and workflow management, should be primary concerns of technology strategists. Failing to invest in them creates the risk of competitive disadvantage.

Rules engines are products used to implement decision support to automate complex tasks. External rules engines are available and sought by payers. Many vendors are planning to enhance rules technology in their applications.

Workflow/business-process management establishes a formal system to oversee business processes that can incorporate human- and machine-based activities. Reasonably mature workflow products are available and can positively influence a payer's business processes.

Technologies that support information sharing will play a critical role in future payer success. Payers must restage their IT priorities to respond to the emerging business needs for connectivity. Review your technology portfolio and strategy against the Hype Cycle. This will help you prioritize technology to seize the opportunity for differentiation and growth.

Visit http://gartner.com/healthcare or e-mail info@gartner.com
.

Wes Rishel is vice president and research area director with Gartner's Healthcare Industry Research & Advisory Services.