Earlier this week I had dinner with George Pashel, the CEO of Esteam,  a Pittsburgh technology company focused on human services.  I was talking about the need for innovation in human services and the need to think in new ways about technology and information, when he challenged my premise.  Imagine!

He asserted that what the industry needs is less innovation and more standardization. 

Interesting.  I think he deliberately narrowed my use of the word “innovate” to make his point, but his point was worth making, nonetheless.  What he sees is an industry, a market sector, a “vertical” that is very un-self-aware (even the technology people in this field are frustrated therapists) with practitioners who don’t even have a common language to describe what they do. 

For example, if he responds to an RFP from an early intervention provider, that provider could have a very different “line of business” depending on the Country, State, County etc they are operating in.  That is unheard of in health care.  Neurosurgery is not different in California than it is in New York or in London.  Health care has HL7.  Human Services has a tower of babel controlled by competing funders and regulators.

His point is well taken.  It goes right back to the argument that Human Services needs to move to evidence-based practices.  That would then lead to more standardization.  He’s right to point out that the current situation makes for very challenging terrain for software companies, and vastly increases the liklihood that vendors and customers will completely misunderstand each other.

Ironically, though, I think it still points to the need for innovation.  We are increasingly strangled by conflicting regulatory requirements, unfunded mandates, unreasonable expectations, and outdated service delivery models.  I think we will need quite a bit of innovation and leadership before we can get to standardization.

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Do we value innovation in Human Services?  I’m not sure we do, so I’ve started another page on this blog just for that.  I think I’m timely on this one, since the Stanford Social Innovation Review is also talking about it this month, and so are others.  

If we don’t value it and promote innovation in our own organizations and our own field, is it too much to expect from our technology vendors?   They, after all, try to match our organizational cultures as much as possible.  Have we met the enemy?

something to think about.

 

Jeanine