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 January 2007.
Crossing the Cliché Chasm: Banished HIT Words for 2007
By Mr. HIStalk
In its tremendous continuing service to humanity, Lake Superior State University has issued its 2007 list of words and phrases that should be banished from the English language (or American, anyway.) It exposes those overused and misused language extensions that might have been cute for about five minutes, but are just plain annoying now. Think mullet haircuts once hicks started wearing them (and, in some cases, never stopped.) Or, those oft-repeated but outdated bon mots like “Makin’ copies” or “Party on, Garth.”
Some examples from their list are “Gitmo”, “truthiness”, “we’re pregnant”, and “awesome.” I’m trying not to form my hands into a choking pattern just picturing someone using them in my presence or on TV.
As my contribution to the literature, here’s my list for healthcare IT.
Actionable – “information” wasn’t good enough, now it has to be “actionable,” a legal term turned into sales babble.
Applauds – vendors attempting to steal a free ride from someone else’s publicity have hijacked this word. If the President or anyone other than a competitor says anything that might sell more of their product, out comes the “we applaud” press release consisting of one sentence of praise, then a page full of hard-sell hype of why that news is so pleasing to them.
Chasm – blame IOM and their “Crossing the Quality Chasm” for turning a geographical term into a synonym for any tough problem. People writing articles and giving cliché-filled speeches often latch on to this overused word.
Clinical transformation – into what? Hasn’t anyone been transformed yet? Shouldn’t the transformational consultants stop invoicing? Are they just transforming your hospital’s money into theirs?
Closed loop – this is an engineering and biology term gone bad at the hands of HIT vendors. Any two systems they sell are now “closed loop,” even though customers have found many areas in which the loop is quite obviously gaping.
Collaboration – a positive term for everything involving two or more people: a meeting, a loud argument, or a knock-down catfight.
Continuum – healthcare doesn’t start or end in a hospital, which is apparently news to people who keep throwing out “continuum” like it’s a new concept.
Electronic Health Record – “clinical systems” became “electronic medical records” and then “electronic health records,” all without programming changes. You don’t have an EHR unless you are importing information from retail pharmacies, dentists, chiropractors, and home health services. Since no one does, please call vendors out when you hear them throw EHR around in an attempt to put lipstick on their pig.
Integrated – no vendor has ever called their products “disintegrated,” even when they bought them one day before from a defiant competitor. Poor definition and blatant misuse have rendered the word useless. It often displaces the correct but degrading word “interfaced.”
Partnership – a vendor selling a product to a customer. Any resemblance to a real partnership is unintentional, since any partnership base on one partner writing checks to the other would quickly dissolve.
Reimbursement – a cute euphemism for when hospitals or doctors making millions get a check, often for far more than any cost they expended and therefore a far cry from being “reimbursed.”
Robust – possibly the most clichéd of all HIT adjectives. Any application with more than one screen is “robust.” The word is never defined, just repeated as if describing a religious experience.
Solutions – slick salespeople have been calling software “solutions” for years, trying to inflate its value by making it sound more all-encompassing and thoughtful. It forces readers of their brochures and press releases to guess at what the hell they’re talking about.
Space – a sorry dot-com relic pressed into service as a synonym for “market.” Example: “we’re in the business intelligence space.” Fortunately, its use is mostly now limited to those who have it between their ears.
Streamline – every product or service claims to streamline something. It rarely happens, but the appealing image of putting a mess in order is intended to incite demand.
Suite – even tiny vendors repackage their harmless little applications into individually named products to make themselves look bigger, allowing them to claim a “suite” as the result. My eyes roll every time I hear it.
Thought leaders – people smarter than you and me, at least in their own minds. Companies often present their high-ranking employees as thought leaders when they want to sell you something. Thought leaders don’t have real jobs, they just think and cling to HIMSS podia. Picture that Rodin statue wearing a suit or black turtleneck and bringing Dilbert-laced PowerPoints.
Tipping point – usually claimed by someone who would benefit if it really is. It usually isn’t.