Fear of Saying Yes to Healthcare IT

I’ve seen a theme this week in healthcare. The theme keeps coming up and so I thought I’d highlight it here for others to comment on. The following Twitter exchange illustrates the discussion:

This reply is about secure text, but “this” in Nick’s tweet could be a wide variety of tech solutions. So, fill in “this” with your favorite health IT solution.

Andrew Richards responded:

And then I replied:

Andrew is right that there are a lot of solutions out there, but the “gatekeepers” as he calls them are saying no. My tweet was limited to 140 characters, so I highlighted the fear element assciated with not saying yes. However, that definitely simplifies the reason they’re not saying yes. Let’s also be clear that they’re not usually saying no either. They’re just not saying yes (this is is sometimes called misery by sales people).

While I think fear is a major element why the health IT gatekeepers are saying no, there are other reasons. For example, many are so overwhelmed with “bigger” projects that they just don’t have the time to say yes to one more project. Even a project that has great potential to provide value to their organization. I’ve heard some people argue that this is just an excuse. In some cases that may be the case, but in others people really are busy with tons of projects.

Another obstacle I see is that many feel like they’ve been burned by past health IT projects. The front runner for burning people out is EHR. No doubt some really awful EHR implementations have left a black eye on any future healthcare IT projects. If you’d been through some of the awful EHR implementations that were done, you might be afraid of implementing more IT as well.

Nick Adkins finished the Twitter exchange with this tweet:

Nick has spent some time at burning man as you can tell from his tweet. However, a passion for improving healthcare and going above and beyond what we’re doing today is a key strategy to saying yes to challenging, but promising projects.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Are there other good reasons people should be afraid of implementing new technology? Do we need to overcome this fear? What’s going to help these health IT “gatekeepers” to start saying yes?

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.


  • I think the “too busy” excuse can be a valid one. Bringing in a new technology is not just about the implementation project, but also the buying project. There are many people involved in the purchasing decisions and if its not a slam dunk, as in its been proven elsewhere, the ROI is clear and tangible, it solves a critical problem that leadership cares about, etc then the buying project itself can be daunting even for someone who really wants to bring innovative technologies in. So we’ve got to get the gatekeepers excited enough to be willing to fight through the purchase AND the implementation afterwards. Both have business and personal risks.

    On the flip-side I know it can be frustrating. I’ve heard all of the following in just the past year:

    1. I’m pulling a wagon with square wheels and I know it. I don’t have the time or resources to do anything about it (i.e. I can’t stop to sharpen my saw because I’m too busy sawing).

    2. I really like your offering and it fits better than the alternatives, but others like me chose X. If I choose X and fail, it won’t look so bad. If I choose you and fail, I’ll look really bad. (the old “no one every got fired for hiring IBM”)

    3. Large university hospital system: We can’t even entertain new ideas. If we had something that was guaranteed to work and be a big win, we still wouldn’t pursue it because we simply don’t have time.

    In my experience, the larger the org, the less risk they’re willing to take on. All good. Bottom-line is you can’t innovate with non-innovative people. Find someone who has a problem and is determined to fix it. Sell to them. They’ll be willing to take a shot at a new platform with the risks and all because they’ve decided they’re going to do better. Dave Chase has a great post on this where he says: “my experience has been that the fastest way to get a big incumbent to move in healthcare is to work with the emerging companies that scare them” – it’s really on point for this conversation and worth a read: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/worst-investor-advice-i-followed-dave-chase

  • John – Thanks for the call-out to the most common piece of advice I give to startups. I hope folks read it to save them anxious. In the pre-Copernican era of healthcare, the hospital has been the center of the universe. It’s the shiny object and trying to land them is at the heart of the horrible, horrible advice VCs too often give to startups.

    Even when I was at MSFT when it was established as a company (basically as a desktop software company) but not as an enterprise IT player (early/mid 90s), I practiced this. There are many non-hospital orgs/small-medium players doing great stuff and have rational decisions processes (and aren’t overwhelmed by mega projects) — *that* is where to prove your tech in the early days. Today there are 10x more of them than before.

    People sometimes wondered why a software CEO/founder wrote as much as I did. A bunch of reasons but one of them was it flushed the folks out of the weeds who “got it” and wanted to be our customers. We didn’t have to force ourselves on people. Incidentally, there are lots of big co players who “get it” — they just may not be the obvious folks. They also were flushed out of the weeds and we were thrilled to land them as customers/partners as well…they just had a longer thicket of issues to work through (often on their side).

  • Don and Dave,
    Thank you for taking it even deeper and sharing so much more. I’m especially grateful for that link Don. What great insights you offered there Dave. I’m going to be sharing them with a company I’m helping out tomorrow.

    I think it’s so true about the power of content. The right content can position your company in a way that no other advertising can do. However, creating content is certainly not as easy as it looks. Dave, you definitely have a unique gift to be able to create really compelling content.

    Thanks for helping people hopefully make some progress amidst a lot of no’s.

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