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Time Capsule: Sounds Like Somebody’s Industry Has a Case of the Mondays

December 9, 2011 Time Capsule No Comments

I wrote weekly editorials for a boutique industry newsletter for several years, anxious for both audience and income. I learned a lot about coming up with ideas for the weekly grind, trying to be simultaneously opinionated and entertaining in a few hundred words, and not sleeping much because I was working all the time. They’re fun to read as a look back at what was important then (and often still important now).

I wrote this piece in December 2006.

Sounds Like Somebody’s Industry Has a Case of the Mondays
By Mr. HIStalk


Is it just me, or is the industry in the doldrums? The news is boring, optimism is in short supply, and both provider and vendor people seem to be uncharacteristically cranky and burned out.

What happened? Just a few months ago, we were on what looked like an unstoppable, exhilarating ride. Everybody was talking about healthcare IT and momentum seemed to be building toward something cool. Now we’re just trudging joylessly along.

Maybe everybody is just hunkering down to get the jobs done that were promised back then, moving us into the less-sexy execution phase from all the high-profile jabbering. That’s good, at least for awhile.

No, I think I’ll blame RHIOs for the industry’s malaise. Like a furnace in winter, it takes a lot of energy to keep that RHIO hot air flowing. Even though most of us don’t have anything to do with RHIOs, it seems like our collective focus has swarmed around them like mosquitoes to a bug zapper.

Or maybe it’s ambulatory EMRs. It is apparently the 11th commandment that ambulatory EMRs are to be “hot” and “inevitable,” except for the vast majority of physicians who still refuse to use them. Once again, we ground troops who are locked in long, desperate inpatient CPOE and clinical systems wars that were started before this latest round of new ideas were conceived have been forgotten, but we’re still holding our own deep behind enemy lines.

Speaking of which, maybe the big hospital applications vendors are bringing us down. Nobody seems to be innovating anything. Everybody claims big R&D spending, but the products are starting to all look alike, kind of a no-nonsense 1980s Soviet Union version of software by committee. Or it could be their customers, blaming everyone except themselves for poor ROI. Nobody’s shaking anybody up.

Maybe it’s the government. Brailer’s gone and no one wants his job, Hillary’s threatening to run for President, and the politicians who promised big IT spending took their (our) money elsewhere.

Company mergers and acquisitions … that’s the problem! Instead of highly strategic, widely cheered absorptions of great little companies by bigger and better ones that energize employees and shareholders, it’s mostly one boring and struggling company being acquired by another, with misplaced expectations of synergy.

Maybe it’s poor management or lack of real strategic planning that’s forcing a “work harder and like it” mindset, just as a new generation of workers makes it clear they won’t be motivated by fear or the desire to help a few company insiders line their pockets.

Whatever it is, I’d like to see it fixed. Not enough people are having fun in healthcare IT. They’re taking themselves too seriously, stifling their own creativity and everyone else’s, and breeding a risk-averse culture that’s exactly what we don’t need just as the world realizes we’re 20 years behind. We’ve got a bunch of self-important stiffs in suits and no one wearing lampshades on their heads, more like General Motors than Google.

If you’re a person or a company with fresh ideas, a sense of humor, endless creativity and resourcefulness, and a passion for patient care, we need you desperately. Bring on your innovation, new ways of looking at old problems, and a passion for doing something other than propping up the company’s stock price.

Like the line from the movie Office Space, I think somebody’s having a case of the Mondays. Lately in healthcare IT, it’s been lasting seven days a week. Still, as it always does, this too will pass.

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