Time Capsule: The Obama-HIStalk Digital Stimulus Grants: Why Letting Me Hand Out the Freshly Printed HIT Cash Makes Sense
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 2009.
The Obama-HIStalk Digital Stimulus Grants: Why Letting Me Hand Out the Freshly Printed HIT Cash Makes Sense
By Mr. HIStalk
This government stimulus thing is new to everyone. It’s no wonder all of us (Uncle Sam included) are bumbling around cluelessly, flitting from one hare-brained idea to another on how we’ll improve healthcare by throwing new money at old products used by uncommitted providers who have had minimal impact so far.
Hospitals and vendors are used to being poor, so the pressure is excruciating. Without the excuse of perpetual poverty, people are going to want results. Duh!
(It’s ironic. We got into this mess by living beyond our means. Now Uncle Sam is going to do the same to buy our way out of the recession. If it fails, we’ll be like Zimbabwe printing $100 trillion notes that won’t buy a loaf of bread.)
Nobody can quite figure out what to stimulate with the hundreds of billions. What people are missing is this: it doesn’t matter. The goal is to just blast a lot of freshly printed cash out there. It only has to exchange hands enough times to create the illusion of restored prosperity. Nothing really has to be fixed in return. You might as well kick $100,000 cash bundles out of airplanes. Just get the money into circulation and hope for the best.
(See: Wall Street bailouts. And note: while I enjoyed MBA macroeconomics, I really never understood the whole money supply thing, so I could be slightly off base).
That’s why I humbly nominate myself to personally manage the process for healthcare IT’s $20 billion lottery winnings.
Everybody agrees that the deficit-enhancing stimulus needs to be a shock-and-awe carpet bomb of currency to put out the recessionary fires, kind of like John Wayne in “The Hellfighters” bombing burning oil wells to snuff out the flames. Here’s how I’ll get all that money into circulation and working by April.
I’m going to take all $20 billion to the HIMSS conference (note to self: I’ll need a suite rather than a room, hopefully one with a large in-room safe). When the show opens in the inevitable Chicago snowstorm, I’m going to quietly observe the action and decide in a unilateral but entirely trustworthy manner who I’m going to hand it out to, kind of like Oprah giving away cars or that ‘50s TV show “The Millionaire.” There’s no committee and no paperwork – you just have to impress me while I’m undercover, and I tend to like non-conformists.
Unlike Uncle Sam, I don’t care about your previous track record. Given the state of healthcare IT, the folks with a long industry history aren’t the ones you would want leading a revolution. It’s time to identify some new blood.
I’ll start with the Venture Fair, giving some CEO-wannabe armed with his idea for an EMR written in Excel $50 million. Then on to the opening reception, where anyone willing to publicly say that interoperability is a cruel hoax will find wads of cash in their pockets afterward. CIOs of hospitals under 200 beds doing CPOE get $10 million, no questions asked.
Got a cool booth design that catches my eye? Here’s $25 million – thanks for the chuckle. A session presenter who actually has something interesting to say without any obvious bias? Take this $50 million, my friend, and do good deeds. A bored hooker forced by economically challenged Johns to moonlight as a booth babe? This million will get you through an informatics training program. A replacement for the cheesy HIMSS opening theme, “Now Is Our Time?” AC/DC live right there in the hall, doing “ Information Highway to Hell.”
I’m going to seek out the industry’s downtrodden, the non-suit wearing, non-badge ribboned rank and file who have been rowing hard in the galleys while the millionaire captains were steering the ship aground. As long as you’re passionate, poor, and fun, you get one of the thousands of Obama-HIStalk Digital Stimulus grants (extra points if you’ve been laid off or forced to move to Kansas City).
You might scoff at the frivolous nature of my self-nomination, but I will get the job done better than any HIMSS committee or federal agency. The money will trickle down like nobody’s business. I will make sure only interesting people and not soul-sucking corporations get it and I won’t siphon off 20 percent as my administrative costs. It might work and it might not, but that’s no different than any of the fancy-pants suggestions that are on the table. Everybody’s making it up as they go.
All I ask in return is adoration and maybe an Obama fist-bump. And, the thanks of a grateful nation.