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Time Capsule: Fiction Writers, Get Ready: The “Most Wired” Bandwagon is Leaving the Station

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 February 2008.

Fiction Writers, Get Ready: The “Most Wired” Bandwagon is Leaving the Station
By Mr. HIStalk


It’s “Most Wired” time again and I’m excited! Just like those folks who find themselves overdue for a teeth cleaning or an annual prostate exam.

Actually, it’s worse. Hygienists and rubber gloved doctors work quickly. Those magazines, companies, and consultants with a vested interest in the Most Wired nonsense yammer incessantly about it for months, wasting free magazine space on how insightful it is, how much the results correlate directly to everything that’s good in the world, and how inferior you should feel if your hospital isn’t participating (and winning, preferably, since this is America and everything is competitive).

I once worked in a fairly sophisticated IDN’s IT shop. Lo and behold, right there on the newly announced Most Wired list was one of our tiny hospitals, a 100-bed rural facility with zero IT staff, remotely hosted green screen apps, and no IT budget.

We never found out who completed the application, but it was an impressive work of fiction. For example, it claimed a really high CPOE utilization, which was especially amazing because they didn’t even have a CPOE application (maybe they thought it stood for Clipboard Physician Order Entry). Same with nursing documentation – they were purely paper-based, but claimed to be electronic. Those reading the hallowed roster of winners probably thought that our little hospital was an enviably progressive IT hotbed.

People often make interpretational errors on the Most Wired survey form (often to their advantage, I know you’ll be shocked to hear) and sometimes lie outright. I’ve read down the list of winners some years and laughed out loud at their audacity. All it takes is some competitive pressure and a CIO or CEO who’s looking for bragging rights and suddenly the submitted numbers are as opportunistically flexible as a vendor completing a prospect’s RFP. If in doubt, just say you’re doing it and feign misunderstanding if caught.

Most Wired wouldn’t be so bad if only CIOs read it, bragging about their big W like a pimply teenaged boy excitedly describing his prowess in a purely fictitious romantic liaison. What’s the harm? It’s this: non-IT executives may actually think it’s a useful yardstick. The magazine loads up with impressive graphs and makes enormous logical leaps to connect IT spending with quality, cost, and the salvation of mankind. The gloss increases the danger that someone might take it seriously and leap vigorously onto the ill-advised bandwagon as a result.

I asked one of my employees to complete our Most Wired application one year. He was struggling with its ambiguity and the knowledge that many applicants were most likely fictionalizing to some unknown degree. Finally, he summarized: “How I answer depends on how badly you want to win.” We had won in the past and he knew the pressure was on for a repeat.

Just about everyone pushing Most Wired makes money on IT sales, implementations, or advertising. They have a vested interested in shaming people into buying and implementing, even when it’s a bad idea. The message is clear: winners buy IT while Luddite losers cower in the corner.

You can’t stop your peers from entering and maybe even winning Most Wired. You should, however, let your executives know what categories it measures, what you’re doing in those areas, and how your IT efforts support organizational goals in ways that go far beyond a simple survey.

If enough people do what they should be doing instead of what the survey pushes, maybe the foolishness will stop. It would be nice if organizations focused on their own strategic IT needs instead of worrying about how they rank on a vendor-sponsored survey that encourages one-size-fits-all conspicuous consumption.