“Old Boys Club” of Healthcare IT

I’ve been giving some thought recently to what I call the “Old Boys Club” of health IT and the damaging impact to healthcare. I’m not really talking about an old boys club like most people think about. I’m sure there’s that in healthcare too, but this is referencing a mentality that I think exists in healthcare that should be recognized and addressed.

The basic concept is that healthcare IT rarely looks outside of healthcare IT for people with related expertise. This approach creates an insular environment where everyone is inside the healthcare IT bubble and start to exhibit the same thinking.

I realize I’m painting some rather broad generalizations, but I think a lot can be learned from looking at generalizations because they are generally true.

I think this idea really hits home to me as I think back on the massive number of EMR and healthcare IT job listings I’ve seen (Check out my EMR and EHR job board if you didn’t know it existed). It is so rare to find a healthcare IT job that doesn’t ask for healthcare experience. I’ve heard many complaints from people coming from other sectors of the economy who have IT experience, but no healthcare experience. In many cases, those people are having a really hard job cracking the “no healthcare experience” barrier. My biggest suggestion to these people is to beg, borrow and steal so they can get healthcare experience.

Certainly, I’m quite familiar with the unique attributes of healthcare IT. So, I can understand why someone hiring a healthcare IT job can benefit having someone who has some healthcare background. However, I can’t help but wonder if healthcare wouldn’t benefit from a few more healthcare IT outsiders joining our ranks. They could provide a fresh perspective and ask fresh questions that could really move us forward. My fear is that many hospital IT people are afraid of the fresh perspective.

I’m glad that my first healthcare employer took a chance on me. I’m a little bias, but I believe it worked out really well for them. I think breaking up the “Old Boys Club” a little bit with some fresh outside perspectives could be really beneficial.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • John…thanks so much for this post. I was having the same thoughts recently. So many organizations could use an infusion of fresh thought. They probably don’t realize how much it could benefit them! Thanks again šŸ™‚

  • Excellent point. As someone whose worked with other industry where IT enabled business transformation, I have been surprised by the “you don’t understand” crowd in some of Healthcare IT – shutting their ears and minds to alternative perspectives. Respecting the fact that Healthcare is unique for sure, I still believe more willing collaborations of those with experience in healthcare and those with outside perspectives and ideas could be quite fruitful for the industry’s necessary transformation!

  • I can nearly always teach someone with a healthcare background about IT but it is often a challenge to train someone with an IT background the healthcare culture of caring.

    The bigger concern I have is that a very very small number of people with neither a health care nor an IT background are becoming the spokes people for all patients in health care IT. Honestly did facebook really save your kids life? Are you making a living selling your story or actually bringing about change?

    They lack the technical acumen to understand the difference between MUMPS and data bases and are so focused on their own dramatic often over-hyped personal stories that they push out the typical patient with a chronic disease.

  • Well, the message must be getting through to some hospital systems. I just got off the phone with a major hospital in a major city. They are interviewing for a “medical informatics specialist”. They said that they are looking to hire several people. And although they received a flood of applications from physicians and nurses, they are looking at “non-clinical” people for the position. This is encouraging news!!

  • Great discussion. A number of people have emailed me that I should write about those from healthcare doing the IT side as well. I think it’s a good idea and so I’ll do a future post on the topic.

    The answer of course is somewhere in the middle. You don’t want all IT people with no healthcare and you don’t want all healthcare people with no IT. It’s a tough nut to crack. Hiring always is.

  • John..good point. One thing people need to remember is that there are plenty of people in healthcare who have IT skills & extensive clinical knowledge who do jobs OTHER than physicians and nurses (such as HIM). HR and others need to recognize these folks and take a chance on hiring them to do implementations.

  • I’ve spent the entirety of my 16 career in IT, several in healthcare IT. Healthcare IT is going to become necessarily more open and interoperable because of regulatory requirements and stimulus incentives. To do this, hospitals and providers are going to have to leverage less proprietary commercial IT solutions and services (the big HIT vendors are already doing this, or even becoming more innovative by looking to open source solutions), which will require the expertise of IT professionals from varied backgrounds. Needs to be better partnerships and collaboration from healthcare industry and educational institutions also to provide better opportunities for both healthcare folks and IT folks to cross-train and develop skills and experience required.

  • Mark..your last comment about partnerships between healthcare and educational institutions is SO incredibly important. Between the ONC HIT program and all the Master’s degrees in informatics, there are hardly any internships. These people get done with school and cannot find work, but have the knowledge. Hospitals have “grown” their workforce from within in the past. Now, they cannot find the talent within. Hopefully, they will have the courage to look for those capable of doing the job outside their own walls.

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