Paying the technical debt piper in healthcare
Let’s start with one of the key business questions in this new millennium: How do hospitals maintain their competitive edge while staying true to their core missions in an era of technology hyper drive? That’s a difficult question to answer, but the key lies in this notion of “technical debt,” a term coined first by Ward Cunningham. That debt can be thought of as the amount of accumulated software assets that have gone without re-factoring for many years or even decades. A major consequence of this is the cost in time, effort, resources, and expenses required in maintaining it all. The more “technical debt” a company has accumulated, the more difficult it can be for that company to regain its competitive footing. A large amount of technical debt also increases the business risk for a company, by increasing the complexity of their technology layers, and therefore their ability to maintain and keep it all in good working order. The analogy here is organizations make poor short-term tradeoffs without considering the long-term consequences, they keep accumulating technical debt. If this “debt” is not paid off periodically by way of meaningful re-factoring to address the shortcuts, the accumulated “debt” jeopardizes the competitive edge of the organization.