Why it is always 1986 in health IT

Simplifying payment structures and standardizing treatment protocols will transform health care, but many of the things we have to do will remain fiendishly complex and, thus, marvelously profitable, for many years to come.

Newcomers to the health IT business, whether individual reporters or giant companies like Microsoft, often find themselves in a time warp.

It's always 1986 in the health IT business.

By that I mean there is an enormous and growing ecosystem of consultants, suppliers, software, service and peripherals outfits the likes of which has not existed in the mainstream PC business for over 20 years.

Submitted for your approval, a press release from Netsmart Technologies, a supplier of medical software. announcing a relationship with Lori Hack of Object Health, a consulting company.

Netsmart is a Microsoft OEM, but you won't learn that easily on its Web site. That's because the operating system is such a small part of the sale. Each module Netsmart sells lives in its own regulatory environment, with its own target customer and its own training requirements.

When the company brags of its "high quality software, comprehensive services, deep domain expertise, and strong customer support" this is not just boilerplate. It's hard-won knowledge that cost money to get, and will cost you money to access.

It was not hyperbole when I commented earlier about the health IT opportunity being worth "trillions" of dollars. It has an enormous number of moving parts, each requiring its own, complex, detailed sales and training cycle in order to work.

Simplifying payment structures and standardizing treatment protocols will transform health care, but many of the things we have to do will remain fiendishly complex and, thus, marvelously profitable, for many years to come.

The 21st century will not be easy to reach in health IT.