EMR Disasters May Be The Best Training Ground

Today I was talking with an enterprise software veteran who’d worked with ERP vendors for quite some time during his career. (In other words, he knows how big, expensive, kludgy but mission-critical installations work.)

My colleague, who’s developing an EMR training program, had this to say, and I think it’s worth thinking about: “You know, the only EMR installations which are really successful are done by people who have handled a previous EMR install which was a disaster.”

Hmmm. I would have thought that the biggest predictor of success would have to be whether someone had successfully completed an EMR installation before. After all, wouldn’t that give them the extra “oomph” and knowledge of project pitfalls that they need?

Perhaps not, if my colleague is right.

Nothing exposes the fault lines where a project can fall apart like a flaming failure.  Until you’ve seen doctors reject your installation completely, had massive problems integrating a system or had consultants completely fumble the ball, you may miss it when such things are about to happen.

Besides, once  you’ve navigated a failure, it’s less likely that you’ll be paralyzed when  a project begins to slide.  It’s just human nature. Having had the miserable, but edifying, experience of having a project die in front of you, it will never sting again quite as much. (Especially because you’ll have learned that if the EMR rollout dies, it may very well not have been your fault.)

To be honest, I’m not sure if HIT leaders should specifically hire for those whose previous EMR project failed. On the other hand, having reflected on my seasoned colleague’s words, I don’t think hiring managers should reject such candidates either.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.


  • Interesting timing for this post Anne since I just recently posted on EMR and HIPAA about switching EHR software: http://www.emrandhipaa.com/emr-and-hipaa/2012/03/06/emr-switching-encouraged-by-meaningful-use/

    While I’m not sure I agree that the best way to learn is through failure, I do think like you said that we shouldn’t write off someone who’s been through a failed EHR implementation either.

    The bigger challenge I think the industry is facing is not enough people who’ve had either experience. Instead many are having to hire people that have no healthcare experience. This can work out just fine, but most healthcare people I know are scared of this trend.

  • Great post. I do think that it is not the failure that is import, but understanding, both the dynamics inherent in the disruptive nature of of installing an EHR. And most importantly to “cut through” the representations during the sales vs the functional reality faced during the implementation.

Click here to post a comment