If you’ve ever tried to learn something as an adult, you know what a painful -- and humbling -- process it can be. After many years of mastery, of knowing exactly how something is done, providers are having to get comfortable with the unfamiliar to meet new consumer expectations and address market pressures. A number of the sessions at last week’s SHSMD conference, Connections 2016, focused on helping providers navigate this landscape of the new and emerging: sessions covered new markets and offerings (“Going All the Way: Health Systems as Health Insurers”), new ways to use data (“The Many Applications of Healthcare Analytics”), and new capabilities (“Designing for the Healthcare Consumer: new models and tools). Our own session, “Thinking Out of the Healthcare Box: How Emerging Technology will Impact the Patient Experience” presented alongside Tufts Medical Center, featured an array of new technologies such as wearables and virtual reality, including even augmented reality, which layers graphics over the real world ala Pokemon Go. Most of us today experience a world infused by technology – except in healthcare, where even making an appointment online can be challenging if not downright impossible. From a customer experience and engagement perspective, this is disappointing – if everyone else can get this technology right, why can’t my hospital? Yet investing in emerging tech for the sake of technology isn’t the answer either. Ideally, these technologies should positively contribute to the patient experience, or improve health outcomes. Tufts Medical Center, for example, is using emerging tech across different points of the patient journey –from making real time ED appointment scheduling (using a platform called InQuicker) to helping patients prepare for procedures using 360 videos of the cath lab.Our latest joint effort is an interactive experience that combines Tufts Medical Center’s Toughlings campaign, aimed at helping kids feel strong, with Microsoft’s Kinect platform, which uses gesture and facial recognition. Primacy built an interactive wall in which kids can interact with Toughlings characters by raising their arms, posing, making a muscle or otherwise moving around. The intent is to get kids to move, smile and feel good, even while they’re in the hospital. Emerging technologies offer significant potential for improving the patient experience, patient and clinical education, promoting wellness or even encouraging customer engagement. And they don’t have to be unreachable – either in terms of budget, or how they are applied. The two keys are to start small and to make it relevant. Is there a platform, service or application in the market that you can adapt? If you want to invest in something like a 360 video, or an immersive experience, can you pilot it for a single service line or single campaign? Once you’ve identified some application or technology that you want to try, you need to vet it: Is it going to help the patient? Is it going to help your business? If you can’t figure that out, go back to the drawing board.Providers are remiss if they don’t at least consider how patients’ technology interactions and experiences outside of healthcare can be applied in the hospital. Today’s “emerging” technologies are going to be commonplace in the near future -- and outside of healthcare, many of them already are commonplace. But it’s up to you to make them purposeful.