Health IT Workarounds – Funny or Insanity?

Healthcare is full of workarounds. Many of them show an extreme amount of creativity. It’s just unfortunate that all of those creative juices are spent on workarounds and not the core problems. While many of the health IT workarounds out there are about health IT people doing what they need to in order to get stuff done, there has to be a better way.

A little while back, Janae Sharp asked for people to share examples when health IT was used as a workaround rather than solving the root workflow or data entry problem. The answers she got were insightful (and it seems a little cathartic for some). Here are a few that stood out to me.

Yep. Aaron is spot on. This was my response.

Aaron Mier, CIO for UT Austin’s Dell Medical School, then went on a tear of them (consolidated here for easy reading):

Exhibit 2: When a Med device vendor tells you that you cannot encrypt their system because of “ FDA certification “ and therefore you complete a risk assessment stating that, literally attach a chain with a lock to the device, and put a camera on it with real time surveillance.

Exhibit 3: When you know that two hospital systems that won’t share data easily for competitive reasons is inhibiting a surgeon getting the priors on their patient, so you call your peer CIO and make an interface happen anyway and ask for forgiveness later.

Exhibit 4: When building code or infection prevention won’t allow you to put wireless access points in the elevators so the clinicians won’t lose connectivity with their mobile computers, so you go and buy a consumer power line network adapter and make it happen anyway.

Exhibit 5: When your hospital can’t keep track of Med devices & can’t afford RFID so you configure each device that broadcasts a MAC address to have an identifiable network marker so you can at least give the clinicians a “poor rtls” by telling them what AP it’s associated with.

Exhibit 6: When no matter how much you ask staff not to create duplicate MRNs for patients bc of issues with merging downstream, and they do it anyway bc of time / system issues, so you up front install a biometric patient reg system to quickly reduce your duplicate rate.

Exhibit 7: When folks constantly forget to encrypt their emails no matter how much you train them to do so so you configure DLP and your email system to catch any known permeations of ephi and pii in email and auto encrypt on their behalf because you know the consequences

Exhibit 8: When your social workers refer out a mental health patient to a specialty provider, a week passes and social worker calls for update on patient and if more follow up is needed? Referring site says “sorry HIPAA doesn’t allow us to share any info with you even with roi”

Then, Dirk Stanley, MD and Lucia Savage joined the action:

Any health IT workarounds that annoy you. We’d love to hear them in the comments or on social media with @HealthcareScene.

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.