Frontline healthcare workers and healthcare technology professionals saw the critical impact of Southwest Airlines’s technical debt or tech debt over the holidays as over 15,000 flights were canceled and thousands of Americans were stranded in airports across the country.
For many people who work on the frontlines of healthcare, the news of Southwest Airlines’ service disruption was the first time they had heard the term tech debt, but they were probably unofficially familiar with tech debt. Healthcare workers experience it often as their daily workflow is disrupted.
Tech Debt Defined
In software development, technical debt is the cost of deferred maintenance and upgrades to software applications and systems, to account for new technologies, changing requirements and emerging defects.
Similar to monetary debt, if technical debt is not repaid regularly, it can accumulate "interest", making it progressively harder to implement changes and drastically reducing the overall stability and performance of the system.
All software companies have some degree of technical debt if they are consistently developing their software. What matters is how they constantly mitigate and repay the technical debt. Great software companies are constantly working to improve their technical debt.
Healthcare workers frequently experience routine and ad hoc outages in their EHRs and real-time eligibility systems. Many (but not all) of these outages are caused by technical debt, as many of these solutions have been developed years ago and therefore have accumulated a large amount of technical debt.
However, instead of flight scheduling, healthcare providers and their technology companies are dealing with the business of healthcare.
At best, problems with unchecked tech debt in healthcare technology can disrupt experiences.
At worst, it can lead to inability to access care, morbidity, and mortality.
Now that you know what tech debt is, what are you going to do about it?
Empowering Providers with Transparency
Brene Brown says, “Clear is kind.” You should feel empowered to ask your healthcare technology vendors about how they handle technical debt.
Your vendor partners should be clear with you about how they keep their platform stable and ensure that technical debt doesn’t put your staff or your patients at risk.
How does Solv handle technical debt? In three distinct ways:
- We have a dedicated platform team to constantly work on ongoing changes to our platform to keep our technology scalable, robust and secure.
- We have created a culture of high quality, security, and scalability across our product development organization, where addressing tech debt, ongoing improvements and customers requests is prioritized across all teams.
- When planning for, developing, and releasing new software, our engineering team strategically plans for the technical debt outcomes of the release.
Transparency is the key to trust, whether it’s with software or patient care.
See Solv in Action
Solv is an ideal way for urgent care businesses to scale. The platform offers digital experiences families love—plus easy intake tools that save staff time.
Learn why thousands of healthcare groups trust Solv to increase visits, improve staff efficiency, and deliver a 5-star patient experience. Book your personalized demo today.
Healthcare executives can learn from other industries, including the airline industry, where tech debt grounded 15,000 flights over the holiday season, stranding travelers across the country.