MUMPS and Healthcare

Leave it to David Chou to point out how odd it is to work in healthcare IT. What’s shocking about the image David Chou shared above is that there are so many languages listed. However, despite the vast number of languages listed, MUMPS is so far off the radar of most tech people that they literally didn’t care about it enough to add it to the chart. That’s pretty sad for those of us who care about healthcare.

If you want to get another view about the challenge of so much of healthcare being run on MUMPS, check out this MUMPS thread on Hacker News. For those not familiar with Hacker News, it’s a site that was started by YCombinator and has grown into a community of some of the most progressive tech startup people in the world. The Hacker News thread is really long, so for those who don’t want to read it all the message is simple: MUMPS? What’s that? That’s awful!

To be fair, there were a few dissenting voices who commented on the great features of MUMPS. However, I have to admit that these people sound a little bit like those who espouse the benefits of the fax machine. Sure, it has some extremely beneficial features, but it’s downsides far outweigh the benefits described.

The reality is that we’re not going to get away from MUMPS in healthcare. When you realize that Epic, MEDITECH, Vista (VA), and Intersystems all use some form of MUMPS (or M as they prefer to call it now), you can see why MUMPS will be part of healthcare for a long time to come.

What’s more disappointing to me after reading the Hacker News thread was how people described the culture of the EHR vendors that use MUMPS. They really described it as uninterested in even exploring other more modern options that could help them better able to innovate their products and serve their customers.

Plus, it also hurts to hear so many programmers in the thread talk about how they shunned healthcare because they saw working on something like MUMPS as a career killer. I’m sure this is a common refrain for most developers out there. It’s disheartening to think that many EHR vendors will never benefit from the best developers as long as we’re on MUMPS.

I’m sure MUMPS was great in its day. It seems to have been a wise choice by Epic to start using it when I was born back in 1979. However, can you imagine the technical debt that’s accumulated all these years? Is it any wonder that innovation in healthcare works so slow?

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.

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