Stages, Rankings, and Other Vanity Metrics

It seems like we’re always getting bombarded with the latest and greatest list of hospitals and EHR vendors being ranked, classified or sorted into the various levels of IT adoption. The most famous are probably the HIMSS stages, KLAS rankings, and Most Wired Hospitals. While I’m like most of you and can’t resist glancing at them, every time I do I wonder what value those rankings and classifications really have when it comes to Health IT adoption.

In the startup world there’s a term that’s very popular called vanity metrics. I believe it was first made popular by Eric Ries in this post. The idea is simple. Organizations (and the press that cover them) love to publish big numbers for an organization, but do those metrics really have any meaning?

When I look at the various stages and ranking systems out there in healthcare IT, I wonder if they’re all just vanity metrics. The press loves to put a number on something or to classify an organization versus another one. However, does the stage or ranking really say anything about what really matters to a healthcare organization?

I haven’t done any specific research on things like the quality of care or the financial qualities of organizations across these stages and rankings. Maybe organizations that rank higher or have achieved a higher stage actually do provide better care and have better financials. Although, no doubt that research would have to also inspect the causal relationship between rankings and these results. However, I wonder if these rankings and classifications are really just vanity metrics.

I wonder if there are other metrics we could use to evaluate a healthcare organization. I think the results of such metrics would find every institution wanting in some areas and excelling in others. Stages and rankings don’t take this into account. However, I believe it’s the reality at every institution.

This actually reminds me of Farzad Mostashari’s comments about Healthcare’s Inability to “Step on a Scale” Today. As Farzad asserts, healthcare can’t “step on a scale” today and know how they’re doing. This is partially because the “scales” we’re using today aren’t measuring the right metrics. It’s like the scale is telling us that we’re 5’9″ and so we’re concluding we’re overweight. Although I expect that many might argue that the scale is blank and we’re concluding whatever we want to conclude.

I’d love to hear what metrics you think a healthcare organization should be measuring. Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, 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,, 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.