Sometimes technology takes a while to find its place

Sometimes technology takes a while to find its place.

Technology advances often aren't boosting productivity

Some industries, like healthcare, have seen massive technology investment with little to show for it

Digitizations, integration, automation. It's often accepted as gospel that technology will spell productivity improvements, and in many sectors it has. Other areas, however, have invested millions — or billions — and struggle to earn that investment back.

The New York Times has a good snapshot of one such sector: Healthcare.

Under Obamacare incentives, hospitals and doctors were encouraged to upgrade their processes to rely on electronic, rather than paper, records. The promised benefits included reduced duplication, fewer errors due to bad handwriting, and better communication between different offices as well as with patients.

And the incentives worked in pushing adoption: According to a report from the America Hospital Association, 79% of hospitals used electronic health records in 2008, versus just 9% in 2008.

What hasn't worked as expected is the benefits of that adoption.

“The government funding has made a huge difference,” Dr. Ashish Jha, a Harvard professor, told the Times. “But we’re seeing little evidence so far that all this technology has had much effect on quality and costs.”

There's hope that those improvements will come, they just take some time. But with $32 billion already spent in federal incentive payments on the healthcare industry alone, there's understandable anxiety that those improvements come sooner rather than later.

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