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Why Sarah Palin is Relevant to HIT
By Wilma Pearl Mankiller
I found it amusing that so many people took Inga’s comments about Sarah Palin and bangs and Botox and turned it into something political. I agree with the readers who think HIStalk isn’t the right forum for politics. We get plenty of that from every cable news channel every night.
That being said, the Sarah Palin story is relevant to our little healthcare technology world. There are some excellent women leaders in our industry, but men far outnumber the women in the top spots. With Palin, we see a working mom who has a realistic chance to be the #2 “guy” in the country. This makes her story relevant, interesting, and inspiring for those of us who have struggled to advance our careers while also balancing our family lives.
Years ago, when I was first newly pregnant, I went to dinner with my husband, a male co-worker, and the co-worker’s high-level executive wife. All but my husband worked for HIT vendors. At that dinner, I recall the wife warning me that no matter how much my husband claimed he was going to help carry the weight, some things would always fall to the wife/mother. At that time, I was young and naive and didn’t fully comprehend what she was telling me. All I really understood was that she and her husband had successfully raised three great kids and she managed to rise through the professional ranks at the same time. I aspired to be like her.
Fast-forward a few years. I supposed I can say that for the most part I achieved what I had hoped for: kids, a nice house, enough money, and some time as an executive. I suppose some would say I had it all. Perhaps I did. But the reality is that getting it “all” can include a few things you never expected or wanted, such as:
- Tears, while sitting in the parking lot of my son’s daycare the first time I dropped him off.
- The discomfort and inconvenience of expressing milk in airplane bathrooms and rental cars.
- Resentment, from both men and women who felt it was unfair that they had to pick up the slack for me while I was getting paid time off just to hang out with a baby.
- Frustration and guilt, for cancelling product demonstrations because I had a sick child at home who needed me.
- Ambivalence, when removing my name from promotion consideration after learning I was (unexpectedly) pregnant again.
- More ambivalence when I asked for lesser job with lesser pay so I would no longer have to travel.
- Guilt and self doubt when others questioned (judged?) my career advancement decisions and my commitment to being a mom (and for some reason, the highly paid men with stay-at-home wives were the worst because they never seemed to understand that not every husband is the family’s major breadwinner).
Obviously and unfortunately, my frustrations weren’t unique to HIT. In fact, the same challenges exist in just about every industry, which is probably why there are only eight women CEOs running Fortune 500 companies. If you are a woman who chooses a career AND motherhood, you face challenges that only other working moms appreciate. The role models in our hospitals and companies are few and far between. While we can all name a few women that have shattered the glass ceiling, these leaders are the exceptions.
So, here we have Sarah Palin, a real mom who is potentially the country’s next VP. She got where she is by some combination of brains, ambitions, timing, good looks, and luck. We can appreciate that she has to take a baby on the campaign bus. Her kids aren’t perfect. She has critics who think she should be staying home with the kids. Unlike Condoleezza Rice or Janet Reno, she has a family. And if she can succeed, then it gives the rest of us hope that maybe more of us will have a chance to run a hospital/IT department/software company one day.
That’s how Sarah Palin is relevant to HIT.
Observations from the Epic User’s Group Meeting
Epic is an engaging, dynamic company. They definitely put on a good show. But the smart observer can figure out their MO.
When Epic wants to build a new software tool or enhance an old one, they put a couple of recent college grads on the project. After "research", and whatever that involves and an hour or two of client Webex’s, they release the upgrade. If QA is done, it’s by other non-clinical people.
When a client complains, especially a doc, they shower them with attention, phone calls, a trip to Madison. "We want to work with you and hear your feedback." Then, after a number of back and forths, all volunteer time on the doc’s part, the module is improved. This can take years.
Meantime, no one really asks "Why didn’t you do a better job building the thing before you released it?" Anyone who does and doesn’t volunteer to pitch in is not a "team player".
Who loses in this game? The doctor/nurse/lab tech, and then the patient, who suffers through the risk of alpha software.
Who wins? Epic, who doesn’t seem to ever pay a dime for this expert help. Kaiser Permanente seems to be learning this the hard way.
Do other companies play this game? Has anyone ever been a paid expert for Epic design? Does Boeing design airplanes this way?
From the Mailbag
Got questions for Mr. H or Inga? E-mail them over!
Did you see where one of the AAFP directors suggested EMR vendors are part of a big Ponzi scheme and the only ones making money are the vendors? What do you think? – Carlo P.
Dr. L. Gordon Moore is the doctor who apparently doesn’t like EMR vendors. What Dr. Moore said supposedly said was, “Beware of the monolithic, expensive IT vendor, because there are always things they don’t do well. The whole thing can be a Ponzi scheme. The only ones making money from most of these products are the vendors selling them.”
First of all, is there something about making a profit that should make a vendor ashamed? Of course EMR vendors are trying to make a profit. Making a profit is a good thing because it means your vendor is more likely to stay in business to support you and continue developing the products.
So, was Dr. Moore suggesting his EMR did not help his practice become more profitable? Is that why Dr. Moore bought an EMR??? In my experience, the physicians who utilize EMR most successfully are those who initially went into the project looking to improve patient care (by making information more readily available, records more complete, reminders automated, etc.) EMRs can definitely increase efficiencies, which might make the practice more money. Of course some vendors and solutions are better than others and there are always things a particular vendor doesn’t do well as another. This is true with both the monolithic and expensive vendors and the nimble and inexpensive start-ups.
Bottom line, Carlo, I don’t think Dr. Moore is the kind of guy I’d have fun chatting up at a cocktail party.
Dear Mr. H,
I saw a reader comment in an earlier Readers Write about the problem with meetings. What is your take on them? – Lorena
I detest meetings. Really. They are like gases – they expand to fit whatever space and time is allotted to them, yet nothing ever results except a vow to hold even more meetings to which even more people are invited. I don’t like attending them and I don’t like conducting them. I will do anything, including faking an emergency page or coughing spell, to escape back out into the sweet, cool air of freedom.
The really bad ones are when the suit-du-jour is running a meeting of the worker bees. Everybody’s jockeying for the boss’s love and admiration, so it will take twice as long as usual to achieve nothing. When a boss is present (hint: they’re the ones with the suits who came late and are furiously keying BlackBerry e-mails instead of listening to people who actually showed up in person) they will pretend to be fully engaged by randomly spouting out one of these non sequiturs:
- Make sure you document that
- Let’s put that in the parking lot
- How about a bio break?
- Schedule another meeting with (cast of thousands)
- E-mail me the details
- Give me a completion date
- Send me a list of the risks involved
- I need to review that before you send it out
Notice how none of these items really adds any value except to support the illusion that the boss is vital to the outcome?
Some people are meant to conduct valiant battles on a field of laptops, armed with minimal knowledge and maximal need to prove it. Others just get the job done instead of yammering about it.
What kind of sales tricks should doctors look out for when considering the purchase of a PM/EMR system? – Suspicious Doc
Dear Suspicious Doc,
Are you buddies with Dr. Moore, by chance? Since when did EMR vendors get put in the same category as used car salesmen? Although I do recall hearing about this sales guy who used to “hide” a second PC and switch box underneath the table during a demo. At just the right moment, he would switch from the computer running the PM software to the one running the EMR. He was such a pro at it that prospects never realized the two products were in no way integrated. He was smooth.
Anyway, I think one thing important to understand is if the software version you are reviewing is actual live and in production. If it is a pre-release version, that is ok, but it’s important to understand whether or not the version you are looking at is fully tested and the one you will be getting. Also, definitely talk to other practices and ask them about implementation, support, and whether or not the software works as advertised. If you believe a particular function is critical for your operations, make sure you talk to at least one practice (anywhere, any specialty) that uses that feature.
Finally, assume that in most cases that whatever price you are presented initially can be negotiated. It’s likely that the vendor is more concerned with the total contract amount than individual line items. If they throw in a PC or an extra day of training, understand the value of the item so you can access if it represents 1% or 10% of the total deal. If you are offered a lease option, keep in mind the sales rep (and maybe the company) receives some sort of commission for the lease, so they may be willing to give you a little bit better deal on the total price. Also, lease rates can usually be negotiated if your credit is good.
I know a female sales rep who slept with a hospital IT person and her company’s product was chosen. Is that common? – Ms. Kitty
Dear Ms. Kitty,
That is a one of the oldest sales tricks ever (check out the Old Testament). Seriously, I guess I am just naïve enough to believe that women (or men!) don’t give up their bodies to win business. I bet what happened with your female sales friend is that she just happened to find true love with that IT person and her product just happened to be the best solution.
I loved your avatar! I was in love with your mind before, but now that I realize you must also be beautiful I’m beginning to think we might be made for each other. By the way, are you getting all sorts of cyberspace love letters from wacky IT nerds? – Obsessed Fan
Dear Obsessed Fan,
Um, you are the first. (that was a pretty creepy e-mail.)